The opening song of Polyphonic Spree's Together We're Heavy, "We Sound Amazed," has a reference to a "new religion." The next one, "Hold Me Now," mentions a "new age." And there are numerous references to sunshine and light.
If Tim Delaughter wants to deflect suggestions that there's something cultish and hippie about his two-dozen-strong band-cum-chamber-orchestra-cum-choir, well, this won't do it. But if he wanted to channel the spirit of the sprawling, robed ensemble's colorful concerts into a strong, inspiring album, he's done a terrific job.
The giddiness of the band's spirited (if semiamateurish) chorus and mix of orchestral and rock instruments echoes Delaughter's zeal, but it's focused into an appealingly professional package. And Delaughter's writing has stepped up as well, as he weaves his clear reference points (Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper, 1970s Saturday morning cartoons) into an increasingly personal fabric.
Such highlights as "Two Thousand Places at Once," about keeping your head in stressful times, aren't so much songs as patchworks of hooks and choruses, but they're killer hooks and choruses. Even at its most hippie-ish, the message of love and hope avoids being cloying, while a few self-deflating winks (including the album title) help keep it all grounded.
This may not make new converts, but Spree fans will find much cause to rejoice.
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Polyphonic Spree: Together We're Heavy (Hollywood) *** 1/2