Sound: This is the debut album from Edmonton electro-pop group Christian Hansen and The Autistics. The best way to describe the sound of this album is strange, but surprisingly refreshing. The group uses lots of programming and looping, as well as keyboards and bass, to create the basis of their songs. This results in a sound scape that is surprisingly sparse, with lots of open space, giving it a rather odd feel in an era of very rich musical production. However, the album usually manages to avoid being thin sounding through the use of subtle vocal harmonies and well placed fills by bassist Scott Shpeley, whose bass playing, though somewhat unconventional, does a nice job of tying together the disparate sounds on the album.
On a production note, the album is almost too clean. Much of this can be attributed to using mostly electronic instruments and lots of MIDI triggering. However, Hansen's voice does sound too clean, almost sterile, at times, which is rather unfortunate given that he has a good voice. It would also be nice to hear the backing vocals more (not an issue on their next album). Additionally, there are a few songs where the drum loops just seem a little out of place, as if the band had picked an obvious choice first and then mashed in a stranger loop. // 7
Lyrics and Singing: The lyrics on the album, though superficial at the best of times are great fun. This is the only album I've heard that touches on sex tourism, drug use, facebook and molestation all in one. Hansen has a knack for making fun songs out of both fun and downright sad topics, and it is rather nice to hear that the band isn't taking themselves too seriously in the lyrics. That being said, some of the songs, most notably "Calypso Hippo", seem inappropriately happy given the nature of their subject matter.
Also, its nice to hear a singer with some proper technique. Hansen clearly has a very good voice, and he knows how to use it properly. Never does he sound as if he's reaching for a note or beginning to tire and become coarse. Also, he manages to nail every single note without the use of auto-tune, a nice change of pace from Edmonton's other export of late: Stereo's. On a totally unrelated but somewhat fun note, this is the only album I've heard use the word "masturbate" extensively and get radio play. Well done. // 8
Impression: Overall, this is an odd album. The combination of sparse music, often vulgar themes and top-notch singing make this somewhat of a polarizing album: people will either love it or hate it. Personally, I quite like it because its fun and makes no effort to take itself seriously.
In a musical landscape that is beginning to look rather bleak, it is refreshing to hear a group that is willing to stick its neck out and present us with a new sound. Whether their sound will catch on or not is debatable, but it is nice to hear that Christian Hansen and The Autistics are at least willing to try something new. For that reason alone, I recommend that fans of pop and dance music at least take a listen. Who knows, you may actually like it! // 7