Do Make Say Think’s Stubborn Persistent Illusions is an album without a center. It’s the group’s first since 2009’s Other Truths and, rather than sounding too fussy or labored over, there is a lack of self-awareness and openness to the music. It truly comes off like a group of people using shared familiarity, history, and knowledge to guide themselves (and listeners) through numerous moods and textures. Although the band is clearly tight here, there is also a looseness to the music that belies its complexity while simultaneously making it work as a relatively emotional piece (compared to other post-rock brethren). It plays with dynamics — including sky-reaching crescendos — but the band doesn’t show its hand in doing this. Whereas other bands may appear like they’re reeling back for the big release most of the time, Do Make Say Think gives you the impression that this music is figuring itself out as it goes along. So, when figures repeat and motifs emerge, it’s very inviting because you feel like you’re discovering it for yourself (rather than having the band tell you what to notice).
Do Make Say Think shares a few members with Broken Social Scene—this is often noted, but there is an aesthetic similarity between the groups that’s worth mentioning too. Both groups work within already-established strictures of a genre (indie rock and post-rock, respectively), but they both take a more cut-and-paste approach to their work in terms of instrumentation and melodic sensibilities. This allows the groups to be ingratiating yet also a little extra. At their best, they’re able to spark a beautiful, visceral rush that’s natural and touching rather than contrived and manipulated.
In this way, Do Make Say Think makes music that trusts its audience’s intelligence (both intellectual and emotional) and rewards them for being present. “Her Eyes on the Horizon”, one of Stubborn Persistent Illusions standout pieces, features a beautiful horn and string-heavy interlude that evokes the world waking up with you. The interlude is expressly ambient and doesn’t do much to provide physical movement, allowing you to simply float in the space that it creates, sandwiched between two more conventional post-rock sections. Once the rubbery guitar and tinkling cymbals return, you’re back into the headrush of emotions.
Really, it’s up to the listener to decide which temperments Stubborn Persistent Illusions conjures. There’s a prevailing sense of uplift throughout the record, even in the patches where the music gets a bit more weighty, like on “And Boundless”, which is pretty agitated for its first few minutes. However, the band always smooths these edges out into something that’s undeniably pretty and light. It’s clear that Do Make Say Think is filled with real players and they certainly have the ability to invert the general operating emotions of the record, so it’s a little frustrating that there is so much affinity in the music here (you might wonder what it would be like if they went heavy). That said, something like “As Far As the Eye Can See” is a gorgeous piece of musicianship and will tug at the heart with each pulsing synth.
Do Make Say Think is an excellent band, and they’ve returned with a very good album that not only reestablishes the work they’ve done in the past, but, in its looser and more frenzied moments, also points to places that they might still go. Stubborn Persistent Illusions a generous record that doesn’t force its hand to tell listeners how to take it. Instead it acts like a mood enhancer. More often than not, the music feels like a cool breeze at dusk after a hot sunny day—the kind of thing that can recharge you and make you look forward to what lies ahead before you go to sleep.