Shapes and Sizes
Split Lips, Winning Hips, A Shiner
Split Lips, Winning Hips, A Shiner kicks off with a solid rock march ambitious enough to soundtrack the first 10 miles of any road trip. The opening track is one that Shapes and Sizes could very well have penned during their recent 30 kilometer move from Victoria, where the band members met through the city’s vibrant artistic community, to Vancouver, B.C.
Initially the Canadian four-piece adopted the familiar singer-songwriter paradigm, but decided to break those parameters by having everyone write and sing. The gamble paid off; S&S concocted the self-titled debut album of bi-polar, stop-and-start songs that pulled listeners onto an emotional ride, and raised ears, hairs and goose bumps at Asthmatic Kitty Records. Anxious to test their brand of experimental pop on the more southernly Americans, Shapes and Sizes went on tour across the States. Somewhere between British Columbia and New York, the band found themselves sharing a rusted van with the songs that would constitute Split Lips, Winning Hips, A Shiner.
Split Lips, Winning Hips, A Shiner hardly sounds Canadian, at least when compared to the recent immigration of crafted pop from the West and Quebec. Fusing Jon Crellin (drums) and Nathan Gage’s (bass) formal musical training with the youthful energy of Caila Thompson-Hannant (keys) and Rory Seydel’s (guitar) R&B background, S&S consistently stretches and questions the musical structure of each song while providing an outsider objectivity to the complicated scope of music from the lower 48.
Lyrically, Split Lips is at once celebratory and derogatory; among other things, a peculiar but calculated meditation on naive nationalism and potent protest (“Victory in War, oh what a bore”). “High Life” focuses on benign habits turned scabrous, and “Alone/Alive” casts an existential strobe on freedom and dependence minus the pretension that usually comes along for that ride.
Split Lip’s harmonious discord is also technical: the band recorded with JC/DC Studios (Destroyer, New Pornographers, Tegan and Sara, etc.) and mixed with Asthmatic Kitty’s own Rafter Roberts (Fiery Furnaces, The Rapture, The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower) to forge a pristine decomposition. Don’t try turning it down- the overdrive provides the framework for equally aggressive lyrics that combine sensuality, violence, and social critique.
S&S is on the dawn of a second move, literally. The 30 kilometers from Victoria to Vancouver wasn’t enough, so they are now on the road to the catacombs of Montreal. Likewise, Split Lips is a second move for the band. It is guided and on the mark, etching a continent-long mural from points A to B. Shapes and Sizes is probably out somewhere between those points at this very moment, thinking and singing.