GIVERS are the kind of band that could get away with throwing confetti around at their live show. And probably have. I wouldn’t know as I’ve never seen them. But you only need to step a few minutes into their hungry debut In Light to see the Louisiana prog-pop group was designed to be playing to a crowd willing to throw their reverently exuberant energy back at them in equal measure. I can only imagine what that looks like. The group conjures easy comparisons to Vampire Weekend and Architecture of Helsinki, channeling a bit of Jamaican and West African pop, but GIVERS compress their singular blinding emotional catharsis into a firebomb of pop that often hits the ceiling with spurts of punk intensity. They’re not want for an identity, though their electronic leanings, dew sparkling synths, chittery percussion, boy-girl vocal harmonies, and plucky telecaster are anything but unfamiliar in this day and age. Regardless, GIVERS etch a palpable charisma across their breathless debut that’s more than a little enjoyable to latch onto for 51 minutes.
Those familiar with GIVERS’ 2010 eponymous EP will recognize four of the cuts on In Light, starting with opener and single “Up Up Up” (which has to be an anthem for something somewhere, right?). Yet GIVERS have completely reworked and re-recorded the comparably economic and live-sounding tracks, some of which might have dragged here and there. On In Light they’re given the benefit of studio meat, expanding their reach and slapping a whole lot more bottom beneath the biting fuzz and thumping drums. The group also manages to throw in a few more tempo changes, rerouting some of the drum work toward the more complex to make their crescendos land harder. By the time you get to the 2/4 high on “Up Up Up” following its gleeful allusions toward buoyancy, you’ve managed to obtain a taste of bodiless ascension and your smile probably hurts.
A few tracks do pack a few more directions than is arguably needed. Tempo and hook changes go by quickly enough to miss, though none really fall flat. “Ripe” starts with a bit of plunking midtempo guitar and pastoral synth while the chopstick percussion is soon replaced by a chorus of hand claps over the stomping drum and bass. Things somehow alternate between a slow breakdown with skronking James Chance-ian guitars and a syncopated wind-down before we get to a bass-led melody change. There’s another percussive breakdown with yeahs and oohs, a build up, then we hit lightspeed and the stereo blows out. It doesn’t end there, but grabs a few more wordlessly screamed harmonies that could have been choruses before somehow concluding too soon. It’s not as self-consciously schizophrenic as the aforementioned Australian band, say, but it has the same sense of innocently over-eager curiosity fueling its momentum, keeping it from being exhausting.
It’s a fun record and it has no pretensions of being otherwise. The lyrics are mostly inconsequential and playful, as you might expect, delivered mostly in a quick trade-off style. The extremity of its instrumental pallet is some willowy flutes here and there. Its emotional passes might go beyond inspiring happiness and move more into demanding it. So do with that what you will. Still, its not all ecstatic prog-ed up potshots. GIVERS do find time to let their hair down. The seven and a half minute “Go Out All Night” is a languid organ-fueled moonlit affair that adversely takes its time before rising toward its steady slow motion apex. “Noche Nada” has the kind of climbing sing-along chorus that probably sounds real good blasting from a wall of speakers while the sun heads for the horizon. “Ceiling of Plankton” has some intermittent lullaby melodies before jumping into the best chorus on the album.
In Light is the kind of record in a long line of them from the past few years that might have killed if released mid-aughts. Yeah, some of the electronic and percussive flourishes might be a little tired in 2011, but GIVERS sell it with such wide-eyed abandon and indulgent wonder that it’s hard not to give in to the cacophonous stew of bursting pop euphoria.