On Book Of Bad Breaks, the full-length follow-up to 2005’s well-loved More Deep Cuts LP, Thee More Shallows sharpen the edges of their precisely-arranged, orchestral post-pop. Last time, the blessing of a new studio came with a curse: unlimited time and unlimited tracks to record on, causing them to work and rework songs, more like novelists than musicians. This time, TMS set out with the mantra of first thought/best thought. And in a studio full of instruments, they chose to limit their palette, beginning the record’s construction with little more than a $50 Casio keyboard, Dee's acoustic guitar, and Chavo and Jason's drums. As things got moving, they grew more complicated (violin mini-fugues were composed; Anticon's Odd Nosdam brought his drum breaks; drones and echoes crept in) but throughout, the band stayed true to its original intent.
The result is an album moving fast and fluidly between rich, icy atmospherics and angular, galloping pop songs, never slowing its pace. “Eagle Rock” braces a fuzzy keyboard riff with a jaw-dropping drum beat, its rapid-fire verses evolving into a stately, expansive chorus. Standout "The Dutch Fist" begins like dirty Modest Mouse cut through with the swagger of WHY?, then apes Bowie with the hyped-up bounce of a new indie anthem. "Int 2" becomes “Proud Turkeys” on a vertiginous shift from airy strings to crude distortion, then goes out on a barrage of krautrock-driven drums and pretty falsetto, while “The White Mask” sets out as deliberately as a Mount Eerie epic and arrives at a chorus as memorable as it is frightening. And all along, Dee’s mellifluous, slightly twanged observations offer much to sing along with and ponder. So yes, maybe is another novel, but this time TMS has written a thriller. Simply put, it's a damn fine record from a band at the height of its powers.
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