There's a fine line between inspiration and slavish emulation, and The Ruby Suns walk that line precariously throughout this debut album. Ruby Suns leader Ryan McPhun, an expatriate Californian now living in New Zealand, has taken with him an obsession with his native state's most gifted son, these 12 tracks dripping with musical echoes of Brian Wilson, particularly Pet Sounds. There's the "Sloop John B" arpeggiations in "Criterion"; the way "My Ten Years On Auto-Pilot" stalks "Then He Kissed Me" like a musical doppelganger; the a cappella exercise "Trees Like Kids"; and the Wilsonian sound-bed to "Maasai Mara", recalling "Here Today". McPhun and his players lack Wilson's melodic potency, but there's a great charm to these tracks and "Look Out SOS!", which builds from C86-ish indie beginnings to an almost Spectorian density. Oddly, the results recall the Canadian indie-prog of Arcade Fire, while the mysteries of the lyrics, combined with the band's use of 1970s AOR musical and vocal mannerisms, makes The Ruby Suns a close cousin of Midlake's enigmatic The Trials Of Van Occupanther.
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