[CHORAL POP] On the surface, Ages and Ages' sophomore release, Divisionary, might appear to shine with as much bright optimism as the band's debut album, 2011's Alright You Restless. Bringing to mind childhood summer camp—the good one, not the one where you got 17 mosquito bites on your face—the music remains focused on the tight, soaring vocal harmonies of the group's seven members, rising and falling with the vibrant acoustic guitars, shakers, hand claps and driving bass drum.
Upon further inspection, though, you'll find the honeymoon is over for the fresh-faced gang that set out to start a commune on its previous concept album. Instead, with Divisionary, we're introduced to a group that has faced a storm together and is now addressing personal demons and heavier sociological issues.
The album's title track grows on a simple acoustic melody, over which frontman Tim Perry sings, "Do the right thing/ Do it all the time/ Make yourself right/ Never mind them/ Don't you know you're not the only one suffering?" It slowly evolves into a swirling mass of harmonies, delicate piano and floating strings, a conflicted mix of hopefulness and obligation. Album opener "Light Goes Out" starts off in a similar manner, hands clapping behind Perry's musings on the nature of authenticity, which quickly morphs into a spiral of group vocals, repetitive piano and a groovy bassline.
This mix shows up throughout the album, with the group displaying a harder bite, musically and lyrically, than before. But as the choirlike rounds of repeating lyrics build over simple, energetic rhythms, Ages and Ages still manages to retain a bright veneer as it travels through the darkness.
SEE IT: Ages and Ages plays Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., with Fanno Creek and Us Lights, on Saturday, March 1. 9 pm. $12. 21+.