Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Plajia: Hard to pronouce, hard to classify, easy to like

February 7, 2009

Beautiful Explosion from the Montreal-based three-piece Plajia is difficult to classify, since the album is extremely diverse, with ambient, rock, pop, and folk elements. But who said that bands need to fit into a genre, anyway? Plajia’s debut full-length album might make you believe that classification is overrated.

The album opens with “Dummy,” an indie-rock lullaby with social commentary. Patrick Pleau’s soaring vocals sound a bit like Matthew Bellamy of Muse, and at times throughout Beautiful Explosion, the vocal lines sound like Muse, too. This is a compliment to the band and a benefit to the listener. “Dummy” starts off a bit slow, with a dreamy and atmospheric feel, but it builds really well and works up to a very rockin’ guitar solo. The song tapers off nicely, creating a well-planned arc effect.

“God’s Waiting in Line” is pretty catchy, and the violin (and flute?) in “Sleeping” are gorgeous in a wow-this-is-making-me-tired way, but Beautiful Explosion really picks up with the title track. It is instantly up-tempo, staccato, and light, which might throw you off after hearing the previous three songs. The surprise, however, is a good one, because “Beautiful Explosion” is a spunky pop song which continues to surprise as you listen. Changing styles right before your ears, this song will encourage the use of the repeat button.

Another track that stands out is the acoustic folk song “Beating the Charms.” While some of Plajia’s slower songs can get a little boring, “Beating the Charms” remains interesting because of its touches of glockenspiel and a pretty little whistling solo. The song changes halfway through, with the addition of bass guitar and more percussion, but the soothing feel remains. I have no idea what this song is about (especially since there are some French lyrics at the end), but it doesn’t really matter since the music is so pleasant.

Beautiful Explosion closes with the scorcher “The Other Side of Squared Pixels,” which also comes out of left field, like the title track. The heavy distortion on guitar, driving drum beat, thumping bass line, and distorted vocal effects are like nothing else on the album. It even transitions into funk for a little while. In fact, several other styles find their way into this eight-minute finale, too. Within the context of the song, these musical shifts sound natural, but taken with the rest of the album, it sounds a little out of place.

This shouldn’t discourage anyone from checking out Plajia, however, because there are some very innovative and interesting moments on this debut. Beautiful Explosion is recommended for anyone who likes surprises, or for someone who can’t figure out what kind of music they like.

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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