Planet Shhh! is my favorite album of the summer. It’s already accompanied me to the beach, a music festival, and a host of sports competitions. It’s pumped me up when my energy was low and cooled me down when my temper was hot. It overflows with exuberance, wonder and joy. No other recent album distills the essence of euphoria in such an effective fashion. Not that it’s beyond comparison: take the brassiest parts of Sigur Rós, combine them with the timbres of Haiku Salut and the finales of Hopeless Local Marching Band, add the party attitude of The B-52s (the title inspires comparison to “Planet Claire”), and you’ll begin to understand this album’s pedigree: barbecues and beach balls, carnivals and calliopes, fireworks and holiday parades. Planet Shhh! sounds like a world on vacation, a wide-open summer stuffed with possibility and hope.
The first indication that something special was in the works was “Tall Tales”, featured on Oxide Tones’ late 2012 sampler. We imagined that this handclap-and-horn-filled confection might be the album highlight, perhaps the closer. As it turns out, this piece is only the opening track, setting the stage for 45 minutes of beaming ebullience. The rest of the album is stuffed like a jelly donut with even more handclaps and horns, glockenspiels and guitars, wild percussion and a generosity of strings. Scotland’s Paul Russell (now of London) is the convener of a grand conclave of musicians, who make a merry noise and are guaranteed to inspire bouts of crazy jumping, crowd surfing and pumped fists should they ever perform this album live.
So much happens in each track that it’s impossible to predict the endings while listening to the beginnings. “The Bubble” is a perfect example: it begins with handclaps and percussive strings, jumps to glockenspiel and drum rolls, topples into punk guitar, adds triumphant brass and finishes with orchestral grace. Tracks like this – and there are many here – act like instrumental versions of “Bohemian Rhapsody” while recalling in construction (although not in timbre) the works of such progressive rock acts as early Genesis and Yes. The sole vocal track (see video below) recalls the cheerful abandon of the Beach Boys. Every track has something to recommend it, from the kettle drums of “Café Hawelka” (a Viennese coffeehouse) to the classical theme of “Alphabet City” to the brass and glockenspiel breakdown of “Singing Sands”. One could call it an album of a dozen singles (one for each performer!), but more properly, it’s an album in which everything works, as difficult a feat as blowing up a balloon inside a balloon. This may be the breakthrough that post-rock has been waiting for: a surge of positive energy, wrapped in radio-friendly tunes that retain their complexity despite their accessibility. The summer of 2013 now has its soundtrack. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 15 July