Shapes and Sizes is an appropriate name for this British Columbia outfit, given the members’ propensity to dabble in as many genres as a band can effectively in ten songs. Opener “Islands Gone Bad” offers a fair introduction to what can be expected from the album: The first few verses are sung by Rory Seydel, who gives the impression Shapes and Sizes is a melancholy Canadian band, then Caila Thompson-Hinant speeds up the second half of the track with a squealing rant that begins “I like eating fruit off of trees,” and then it dissolves into a team chant of “Islands gone bad!” If Sufjan Stevens and his Asthmatic Kitty label were looking for a creative outfit that plays an eclectic mixture, they found it in Shapes and Sizes. Where this debut falls a bit short is in consistency.
Shapes and Sizes hails from Victoria, British Columbia, but as the opener declares, the members vow to relocate to Vancouver, if they haven’t done so already. Creativity is never lost in any of the ten songs, but similar to the artwork on the album’s cover, the album lacks a refined aesthetic.
“Goldenhead” starts with Thompson-Hinant singing to the tune of a groovy guitar rhythm, but the track is yet another example of how Shapes and Sizes refuses to maintain a rhythm throughout a track. After two verses interrupted by a pleasing guitar solo, the final half of the track turns into a morose repetition of “Golden hair upon my shoulders.” A similarly useless chant ruins “I Am Cold.”
The band’s instrumentation comes across as something the Velvet Underground might have recorded if it were still pumping out albums, but Shapes and Sizes suffers from never having anything to say. The members’ way of addressing the issue is often by employing quirky delivery, but that wears old when it’s in the form of useless chants.
One song that works is “Oh No, Oh Boy.” Seydel’s opening verses turn into a faster chorus where Thompson-Hinant also sings, then the guitar goes off on a pleasant diversion before the band returns in unison to a chant of “Oh no, oh boy.” Of all the team chants, this one fits the band’s style, with its straightforward meaning and with Seydel singing behind exclamations of “oh no” and “oh boy.” The band explores a slower tempo on several other songs on the latter half of the album. This style might not be the suit the members want to wear more than once, but it’s reassuring to hear a little consistency by the album’s end.
“Boy, You Shouldn’t Have” ends with where the album begins: Seydel wailing sentiment to the tune of melancholy instruments. Instead of taking the track to an uproarious rant, Thompson-Hinant comes in with pleasing background vocals. Her vocals are amusing throughout, but here the band finds its most consistent sound without the rousing declarations. Still, the creativity on the album is intriguing, especially under the direction of an upstart label such as Asthmatic Kitty.
Shapes and Sizes Web site