March 4 2014 07:10 PM

Band's off to a good start with the first of three 2014 releases

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Hills Like Elephants 
Bedroom Colonies Vol. 1 (Self-released)

In late 2013, Hills Like Elephants announced plans to release a new album, Bedroom Colonies. However, plans changed a little bit. By the end of 2014, all of those songs will be released, but in shorter EP installments rather than as one full-length. 

This isn't the first time a band has taken such a route; in 2010, Swedish pop artist Robyn split up her Body Talk series into a trio of EPs, which seemed to heighten anticipation for each new addition in the series. Hills Like Elephants are operating on a smaller scale, of course, but based on the four songs featured on Vol. 1, it seems likely to have a similar effect.

The elements on Bedroom Colonies Vol. 1 are familiar: indie-rock hooks, Sean Davenport's soulful croon and lots and lots of synthesizers. In fact, the synths on this EP play a more prominent role than ever—beefed up, streamlined and with the volume cranked until the knob breaks off. It's not often that a band creates a record so indebted to '80s pop without overstuffing it with irony, but Hills Like Elephants pull it off with a straight face, embracing their Hall & Oates influence without apology. 

That could be a coincidence of course; I can't say with certainty that the group grooves to Private Eyes in their personal time, but they conjure up a similarly infectious sound. "Non-Fictionalism" seems like a hit to me—and one that could sound as at home on the charts now as it might have in 1984. Though, "4 Legged Comrades" has a synth warble that sounds so much like the one on Wings' "Band on the Run," and it's a little distracting. Still, it's a minor issue.

When the group steps out of a more direct pop realm, they create something equally interesting. "Acid Gel" is reminiscent of The Police's "Invisible Sun" dubbed over with samples of dialogue. But extra-smooth pop numbers like "Fall Thru" are their bread and butter, nifty experiments aside. And in a matter of months, Hills Like Elephants will deliver four more songs. Bedroom Colonies is the gift that keeps on giving.

Email jefft@sdcitybeat.com or follow him at @1000TimesJeff

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