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Is Tropical: I'm Leaving *

Album Notes

On their early singles and debut album Native To, Is Tropical made a name for themselves as one of the fizzy electro-pop-rock bands that seemed to dominate the late 2000s and early 2010s. While they don't entirely abandon that sound on their second album, I'm Leaving, the trio opts for a rougher edge that sets them apart from the multitude of bands pursuing a similar style (several of which are also on the Kitsuné label). The grinding guitar riff that begins album opener "Lover's Cave" tips off listeners that Is Tropical are going for something a little different here; even though their familiar sparkly synths eventually join the throng, that sound and feeling extend to the rest of I'm Leaving. Working with producer Luke Smith, the band adds more depth, more dimension, and even a little grit to its songwriting and arrangements, most notably on the surprisingly raucous "Cry" and the expansive closing ballad "Yellow Teeth," which moves from bittersweet to oddly hopeful and back again at a pace that's about half the speed of any given song off of Native To. Even on the less obviously ambitious tracks, Is Tropical show that they're unafraid of trying new things, whether it's the way the guitar line on "Toulouse" seems to come at the melody at a tangent, emphasizing the song's off-kilter charm, or the way "Sun Sun"'s hook-laden songwriting recalls post-Brit-pop Blur. The female vocals on "All Night" and standout single "Dancing Anymore" -- which sets its lament about not dancing to a beat that gets feet moving easily -- add an extra sparkle that is contrasted by more somber moments like "Leave the Party" and "Video," one of the album's moodiest, and best, songs. As a whole, this album might be less coherent than Native To, where Is Tropical spent their time delivering variations on one sound. Track for track, however, I'm Leaving is the more interesting and promising set of songs. ~ Heather Phares



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