In the indie-rock canon, the Pacific Northwest gets its rep mostly from its Seattle and Olympia greats. Which makes sense: Washington's Pacific neighbors, Portland and British Columbia, haven't had important record labels like Sub Pop and K to push their best bands. But the best Pac-NW album of the year is just a ferry ride away from Seattle, and perhaps the short distance (and free Canadian healthcare) was all it took for Victoria, B.C.'s Shapes and Sizes to craft such a captivating love letter to the region. The quartet's self-titled debut is easy to geographically spot from the Built to Spill guitar-rock hooks in "Weekends at a Time" to the Sleater-Kinney grrl-gruff on "Goldenhead" but much harder to pin down. Songs frequently transform and shapeshift (not spastically, but tastefully) in the best pop-rock combo of ambition and catchiness released so far this year. (Think if the insanity and bravado of Deerhoof was a lot less annoying.)
Opener "Islands Gone Bad" is indie-rock's Lord of the Flies, as a soft Modest Mouse-style open about a stranded relationship explodes into a manic-depressive, trumpet-loaded romp. "I like eating fruit out of trees when I'm with you," Caila Thompson-Hannant wails, her voice a perfect cross between S-K's too-loud Corin Tucker and Cowboy Junkies too-quiet Margot Timmins. And the bleak horn section and minor-key flicks of guitar on "Wilderness" recall the lush melancholy of the Notwist, before the song transforms into a quirky, piano-pop take on the head-bobbery of the Starlight Mints. After listening to these ten dizzying songs, you might need free Canadian healthcare too Shapes and Sizes could make you pass out.