[3 March 2009]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Point Juncture, WA may sound hushed on a lot of Heart to Elk, but there is nothing about their sound that is fragile. This is vibrant and intricate pop played with a haunting, strained quiet that can only come from a great band playing with confidence. These songs swell with horns, they seethe with layers of synthesizer. Amanda Spring and company sing with a full-bodied sweetness over these tracks.
From the dreamy sway of “Rocks and Sand” to the frustrated squalls of guitar on “Once Tasted Ever Wanted”, to the heady mix of tumbling guitars in “Sick on Sugar” and the spacious landscapes of songs like the keening “Sioux Arrow” and steadily building pulse of “Melon Bird”, this band explores mood and sound with a fresh energy. And they never abandon their own wonderful and melancholy atmosphere. Even when strip down their thick sound slightly on rocker “Biatholon” or the muted “Kings Part II” the band loses none of their bittersweet feeling. They can be quiet and unassuming, or they can build songs on heavy orchestration, or they can stuff songs like “Stray Bear” with tense guitar fits.
Basically, Point Juncture, WA do pretty much whatever they want on this album. And, as it turns out, they’re a band that can have it both ways. They can explore without losing their way, and they can make space in their songs without giving up on melody and craft. Heart to Elk is a great pop record, and its greatness is too solid and intricate to be fleeting.