Micachu and the Shapes
Rough Trade Records
With a name like “Micachu and the Shapes,” I had what I thought was a vague idea of what I was jumping into with the trio’s sophomore album Never. I imagined playful 8-bit techno and childish lyrics, all arranged in a clever-yet-playful manner. What I didn’t expect was a raw sound reminiscent of the best garage bands out there, one that is heavy on the drive and innovative with the electronics. My mind was officially blown.
The way I see it, Never is the “grindhouse” genre of electronic music. With an often-manic beat and a few heavy-riff electronic chords per song, the background is gritty and intoxicating. But, on top of it all, is the occasional acoustic guitar or, you know, a vacuum cleaner to add variety and spruce up the number with an added kick. Top it all off with the lo-fi vocals and the occasional missed note, and you’ve got a series of perfect
I don’t know what drew me in first… whether it was the power-force opening to “Easy” and its immediate dive into a playful punk melody, or the offbeat sweetness of “Holiday.” Or perhaps it was the macabre “OK,” packed full of exotic rhythms and enough edge to match the style of Fever Ray and Lykke Li (Spoiler: “OK” is definitely my favorite off the album). Whatever it was, the album grabbed me and did not let go.
Never is full of surprises; when you expect it to go one way, it goes the other. For example, title track “Never” combines a series of metallic and wooden noises with a shaky melody line that slowly descends into madness as the song comes to a close. To add to the insanity, Micachu sings “Never and never and never and never,” as if she, herself, is spiraling in the same pattern. But, with a song like “Glamour,” the entire
tone of the album changes like night and day. “Glamour” features a rounder keyboard backbeat, accompanied by a strong but average drum pattern, and opens with a sweet conversation between a girl and boy over the phone. After a miniature segment of Micachu’s mumble-singing, the girl on the phone gushes to a friend about how much she likes this boy that called… immediately this song takes a full departure from the sort of dark pace of the rest of the album and almost sounds like a lo-fi Lily Allen number.
Not all of the songs are perfect, in fact most of the album is flawed in ways that only an experimental musician can be truly pleased with. But that’s the beauty of it. Sure, Never is gritty, heavy, and full of emotion, but it never dwells on the smaller things like a missed note or an offbeat. And one thing is for sure, I never want to put it down.
By Alex Marga