This review was originally published at Listen Before You Buy.
Hailing from the lovely little land of Los Angeles, Princeton‘s sophomore effort, with its oxymoronic title “Remembrance Of Things To Come”, is a feast of pop orchestration. Released at the end of February on Hit City U.S.A., this record feels like a twenty dollar bill burning a hole in the pocket of a broke teenager. Compulsive, richly ornate and yet somehow studied, the mastermind identical twins behind this project, Matt and Jesse Kivel, have created a collection of songs that emphasize a reflection on the direction that pop music can go when it is stretched and smeared.
The opening track, which is also the name of the record, ‘Remembrance Of Things To Come’ urgently unfolds to reveal heavy orchestra presence, as the record features the seven-piece Los Angeles New Music Ensemble. The presence of these heart-wrenching strings intermingling with more traditional pop sounds of staccato piano and cymbals, results in a singular experience that grows and moves throughout the course of the album.
Followed up by the catchiest track on the record, the second track ‘Florida’ is one that has been on my constant rotation of “walk to work songs” as it dwells on the disillusions that life often brings us, and the hope for something better and magical. Continuing the journey through song titles that travel everywhere except LA it seems, ‘Grand Rapids’ blasts on next with a sound that I finally managed to dub “underwater pop” as that strange very Cut Copy-esque building and swell synth sound that is practically an aural conception of a bubble comes in to adorn the chorus. The hushed and compelling ahhs & oohs of the vocals are topped only by the electronic groove going on above and below him.
As I mentioned above, Princeton shares a lot of features with a band that I love, the synth-based pop rock of Cut Copy. The way they play with rhythms and their electronic tinkerings of sound remind me of Cut Copy’s older album “In Ghost Colours”. The way that rhythms in the tracks move organically from where they started to a completely different spot is a feature that is hard to pull as, as it can lead to an inconsistent feel, but both bands use it seamlessly to their advantage.
Still playing on their geographically themed titles, the rest of the record contains visits to the Alps and Oklahoma among others. Interestingly enough, the recording session that yielded this album included eighteen songs and the group chose their ten most cohesive pieces. The certainly chose well as I don’t think there is a single song on here that isn’t solid. A lot of this is undoubtedly owed to the presence of the Los Angeles New Music Ensemble, a seven piece orchestral group that provides much of the tapestry of sound that appears in these songs. For instance, on ‘Andre’ the backbone of the song is a beat that sounds similar to the clash-cum-MIA riff (from ‘Straight To Hell’ and ‘Paper Planes’ respectively), but it is when the song breakdown into elegant, powerful violins that it really becomes something innovative.
This record is a sign of things to come from Princeton, memorable, futuristic and yet grounded firmly by the orchestral backing, the brainchild of the Kivel brothers is more than worth listening to. It will take you on a journey of sound that seems too layered and artisanal to have come out of Los Angeles, guess I can’t give up entirely on that city after all.