Here Comes A City is Memphis’ third album since their inception in 2002 and has taken just shy of five years to appear since their last release. This time lapse is hardly surprising given that 50% of Memphis is Torquil Campbell, better known as the male voice of Canadian indie mainstays Stars.
This album represents a definite shift by Campbell and bandmate Chris Dumont towards the more melodramatic vocals and up-tempo rhythms heard in Stars’ music and only really previously tested by Memphis on their song from the previous album ‘Incredibly Drunk On Whiskey’. This shift is almost instantly recognised (after the luscious build-up of the title track) on the humorously titled ‘Apocalypse Pop Song’, the first of many songs on the album in which Campbell pays homage to Morrissey, who is clearly one of the British-born singer’s biggest influences. It would be hard to imagine another melody over which somebody could sing “it’s the end of the world today” and still leave the listener with a broad grin on their face! Melody is again the name of the game on the next track, ‘I Want The Lights On After Dark’, which is almost certainly the most Stars-esque track on Here Comes A City.
Fans of the band expecting songs more akin to their previous work may feel that they are being short-changed by this point, however ‘Five Loops’ is soon on hand to placate them, featuring a more low key, echo-laden vocals accompanied by ambience and a toiling piano (this technique is later utilised, with flute and guitar replacing piano, to equal success in the closer ‘M+E=Me’). From the next two tracks one gets the sense that this is where the duo want to be from now on; mixing Dumont’s effortless 80s indie-inspired guitar with Campbell’s wonderfully emotive and descriptive vocals (and, on ‘What Is This Thing Called?’, one of the coolest basslines I have heard in ages!)
With ‘Reservoir’ the album loses quite a bit of momentum and this track identifies closely with the previous two albums. The song is very nice and the use of Yurika Mok’s violin with helpings of lap steel guitar adds a lot texture to it, however over seven minutes without any shift in dynamics feels like too much. It seems a shame then that after this deflation comes one of the album’s standout tracks in the shape of ‘Wait!’. The infectious finger-clicks stand in stark contrast to Campbell’s proclamation that “you were a sycophant, a social climber, a good-for-nothing scum two-timer”, helping this conclusion of a break-up hold an irresistible charm. The album then plays out with the euphoric horn-led ending of ‘Way Past Caring’ brought back down with the pretty little ditty of ‘M+E=Me’.
Here Comes A City is certainly the advent of a new direction for Memphis, but Campbell and Dumont retain enough of their old understatement to mix in with catchy pop songs to make this an all-round excellent album, let down only by a slight loss of momentum towards the end.
Released on 8th March 2011 courtesy of Arts & Crafts