The Impossible Shapes – Laughter Fills Our Hollow Dome

The Impossible Shapes
Laughter Fills Our Hollow Dome

For being such a young band, The Impossible Shapes have quite refined musical tastes. Singer Chris Barth could have written an essay on all the instruments he and the three other band members (Aaron Deer, Peter King, Jason Groth) can play. Such instruments include all the givens, with the addition of melodica, saxophone, and of course echoing ghost sounds. The band’s second album, Laughter Fills Our Hollow Dome, has a happy, whimsical sound. Elf Power is brought to mind at once, given Barth’s airy vocals and organ-heavy songs. The Impossible Shapes aren’t a gimmick, however, as they retain a sound all their own. It is here that I try to impress the reader by namedropping the big bands the Shapes have opened for: Tobin Sprout, The Minders, Fuck, US Maple, Summer Hymns, and Wolfie are a few.
“Sounds to Charge the Wind” opens the album with upbeat guitar strumming before unleashing the secret weapon that makes the song: the saxophone. This is the perfect pop song, and will undoubtedly convince the listener of the quality of The Impossible Shapes. It perfectly blends textured keys with low-fi guitar plucking. “Dancing in Heaven” surprisingly sticks solely to guitar, bass, and drums. Barth’s voice opts to talk-sing instead of sing in his voice of wonder. In fact, the song is so indie that it would fit onto the Silver Jews’ Starlite Walker. The closing lines, “But the end is not the end / No the end is not the end” even sounds like Berman vocally and lyrically. Although “Dancing in Heaven” is one of the standout tracks on Laughter…, it comes out of left field.
“Graceful Arc” is a lesser “Sounds to Charge the Wind,” also using saxophone. “Jesus and Squares” is another keeper that sounds more like Elf Power than any of the other 13 tracks. Whizzing by in two and a half minutes of sweet guitar and organ, “Jesus and Squares” could accompany David of the now defunct David the Gnome in his adventures, “I see Jesus and squares and animal stares / I see the whole world’s dreams as they’re beamed through the air.” But from there, Laughter… slows down. The three rockers seem to have made their way to the front of the album. The remaining songs are more melodic and beautiful than fast and rocking. The first bunch of songs is a teaser of sorts. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as strong songs are to be found later in the album. The chorus to the soft “Go Somewhere Beautiful Part II” is lovely musically and lyrically, “And oh it’s hard now to stay in one place / And watch as dead time leaves marks on your face.” On “Found is Sister” it is remarkable how beautiful the repetition of “la la la la la la la la la la la la la” can sound. And I’m being completely serious. “Supermaze” is pure fantasy, and “Fevered Blues” provides a perfect ballad to close the album.
Laughter Fills Our Hollow Dome is evidence enough to persuade me to look for The Impossible Shapes’ debut album, The Great Migration. I hear “Ambitious Dressing” from that album succeeds in that “Father to a Sister of Thought” sort of way. But could The Impossible Shapes pull it off with as much style? Indubitably.