+/- : Let’s Build A Fire

<img src="http://www.qromag.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/10/plusminus.jpg" alt=" " />While Brooklyn’s Versus is officially ‘on hiatus,’ it’s been six years since their last album, the valedictory-titled <em>Hurrah</em>, and guitarist James Baluyut now has his...
6.9 Absolutely Kosher

+/- : Let's Build A FireWhile Brooklyn’s Versus is officially ‘on hiatus,’ it’s been six years since their last album, the valedictory-titled Hurrah, and guitarist James Baluyut now has his third full +/- (plus/minus) release, Let’s Build a Fire (the second with Versus drummer and +/- guitarist, Patrick Ramos).  After its incomplete and only partially mastered Asian release in 2005, +/- took a year to remix, remaster, and finish up the album, as well as move from Teenbeat (Versus’ original label) to Absolutely Kosher, before releasing it in America.  The time, and change, has served the record well.  Very well.

+/- had already fully incorporated Hurrah’s expansive-yet-intimate indie pop sound, with solid, if sometimes predictable, results.  But with Let’s Build a Fire, they have begun to take it further, by incorporating a more driving, indie rock beat on many their tracks.  The best example is the first single, “Steal the Blueprints,” the strongest song on the album.  It successfully builds an indie pop song on an indie rock beat, reminiscent of the more upbeat work of Death Cab for Cutie.  Plus, drummer Chris Deaner’s video project beat out The Black-Eyed Peas at the San Diego Asian American Film Festival.  As +/- says, “Take that, Fergie!”

Other attempts don’t mash quite as well, such as when the vocals meet the rhythm on “Thrown Into the Fire,” but still hold their own.  A better combination is found in “Leap Year,” which rings like the definition of ‘good’ emo.  The two leadoff tracks, “Let’s Build a Fire” and “Fadeout,” each move from a simple, stripped down sound into a powerful crescendo (though they both take a little too long getting there).

However, +/- has hardly forgotten its airier roots, though they display less ambition with them.  “This Is All (I Have Left)” may play like it belongs on the Garden State soundtrack, but its fluidic guitars and vocals float well, and it wouldn’t take Natalie Portman to get you give it a listen.  The darker “Time and Space” stands out with some of the lap-pop notes of +/-’s eponymous first release, but it might be the only airy track on the record that really surprises.  Let’s Build a Fire is at its weakest when it veers into its saddest terrain, from the somewhat emo-whiney “The Important Thing is to Love” to the uninspired, yet-another-sad-summer-song-about-a-girl, “Summer Dress 2 (Iodine).”

Anderson Cooper (CNN’s prematurely grey, pretty-boy news anchor) said of +/- on his celebrity playlist, “Still a relatively small New York City band.  If you hear they are playing some small venue, go see them before they blow up.”  This is the guy who was the first to see Katrina as more than just another hurricane – but this is also the guy who left ABC News to host The Mole.  +/-’s mix of indie dream-pop and indie rock, even indietronic, beats may not make them the next Death Cab or Shins, but they’re headed in the right direction.

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