Polyphonic Spree 

Together We're Heavy (Hollywood)

Touring in support of their first album, The Beginning Stages of . . . , the Polyphonic Spree seemed likely to fall into a novelty-act trap, what with all the people up onstage with their flowing white robes and sweeping Technicolor dreamsongs. If the Polyphonic Spree wasn't a cult, then the band at least pushed the flowering, orchestral dream-pop of Mercury Rev and Flaming Lips to its sweetest extreme; frontman Tim DeLaughter went after those bands' ecstatic highs like a kid licking the icing off cupcakes.

Together We're Heavy, on the other hand, is more cake and less frosting. True to its title, the music here is heavier, teasing melancholy from the Spree sound and finding room for more nuance and variation than on the demo-turned-darkhorse-hit debut. This is partly due to DeLaughter's new reliance on the piano and partly due to his maturing songwriting. He appears to have figured out that there's more to do with his gazillion bandmates than have them all come out guns blazing; new songs build to their climaxes instead of simply starting there, and along the way, the arrangements showcase the contributions of individual instruments. Together We're Heavy still boasts the holy glee that fans expect of the Polyphonic Spree, but now the end result sounds human, instead of like a heavenly choir, and it's better that way.

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