The Most Serene Republic were the first group signed to Arts and Crafts that had no relationship to Broken Social Scene. Yet it's clear the label didn't want to stray too far from its golden hen: both collectives dabble in dreamy soundscapes, in setting sweet melodies against crunchy breakbeats, and in being Canadian.
Serene Republic's ethereal third LP also calls to mind a wide range of other artists. Careering piano lines negotiate the tricky time signatures of poppy opener "Bubble Reputation," and vocalist Adrian Jewett, doing his best Doug Martsch impression, cements the Built To Spill associations. Jewett splits vocal duties with Emma Ditchburn, and the boy-girl harmonies conjure fellow countrymen Stars. So does the melodramatic schmaltz, like "I thought we established we were friends/Now go amscray," from a track called (no kidding) "Catharsis Boo."
Almost every number dissolves into 20 seconds of breathy, multi-tracked madness — there's a reason for those ellipses in the title — but the group's polyphonic intrigue is wry enough to protect the album from its cutesy-pie, apropos-of-nothing lyrics. And in tough times like these, . . . The Ever Expanding Universe provides a nice excuse to put on the headphones and look up at the stars. There's nothing wrong with having one's head in the clouds, but this band could stand to make the occasional contact with earth.