Figurines: When The Deer Wore Blue
Paper Bag

Hooks abound in the thirteen pop treasures comprising When the Deer Wore Blue, Figurines' third full-length and ambitious follow-up to 2005's Skeleton. The Danish quintet may have formed in the mid-‘90s but its heart belongs to the ‘60s, specifically to melodically-charged bands like The Zombies and The Beach Boys. The material suggests a fusion of Smile-era Brian Wilson and Stereolab, and Figurines fervently embraces Wilson 's ‘mini-symphonies' concept.

Harpsichords and a wordless choir lead the charge in “Childhood Verse” before guitarist Christian Hjelm's voice roars in. The multi-layered harmonies that introduce “The Air We Breathe” make the group's allegiance to Wilson 's music crystal clear, the mid-song piano-and-vocals episode even more so. In fact, the song could even be mistaken for a lost track from the Smile sessions were it not for Hjelm's operatic delivery (the Wilson influence also declares itself in “Half Awake, Half Aware” and the lovely banjo-laden coda in “Cheap Place to Spend the Night”). Once the initial shock of Hjelm's shrill, high-pitched singing subsides, one warms to its exuberance and personality. “Let's Head Out” is the kind of jangly guitar pop one could picture the band lip-synching on a ‘60s episode of American Bandstand, while “Hey, Girl” pairs a rock shuffle with roller-coaster vocal melodies.

Yes, a few questionable moments do surface—the incorporation of a slowed-down “Superstition” into “Drunkard's Dream” is resourceful but the song overstays its welcome at seven minutes, and “Bee Dee” is so cute it verges on twee—but the album's wealth of swooning hooks and joyous energy makes such observations seem like so much quibbling. When the Deer Wore Blue might just be the ideal gift for your resident “Cabinessence” fanatic.

January 2008