The Helio Sequence 

Keep Your Eyes Ahead

Portland duo the Helio Sequence has continuously evolved its sound during its more than ten year existence, but the constant has been its fervor for orchestrating layers of pulsating electronic textures amid electrified, reverb-soaked guitar and pop songwriting. The highlight was the band's 2001 sophomore effort, Young Effectuals, whose glut of noise wrought urgency from even the most saccharine dream-pop. Love and Distance, the band's Sub Pop debut three years later, incorporated even more instrumentation — harmonica and cowbell included — but with an upbeat disposition that Pitchfork christened of the fromage variety.

On Keep Your Eyes Ahead, singer-guitarist Brandon Summers and drummer Benjamin Weikel depart from their decadent tendencies. Their lush sonic architecture hasn't disappeared, but it's far more refined, organic, and gloomy. Among the highlights: opener "Lately" strips down to bright guitar arpeggios shimmering above bass and drums, sounding not unlike U2 and the Walkmen, and the dreamy title track, which builds into a blissful wall of sound with bombastic drum fills and chiming guitars. Apparently, during the band's last album tour, Summers lost his voice and regained it by studying Dylan, and it shows on acoustic-guitar ballads "Shed Your Love" and "Broken Afternoon." Sadly, the homage devolves with closer "No Regrets," a foot-stomping, hand-clapping attempt at revivalism. Still, this is the Helio Sequence's most thoughtful work to date, and a compelling example that sometimes less is more.


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