The middle of the album by itself would represent a largely unremarkable debut for the electropop of Imitating Aeroplanes. But the beginning and end of this album are so strong that they lift up the whole record.
Imitating Aeroplanes is a primarily electronic duo featuring Tord Øverland Knudsen of the Wombats and Marius Drogsås Hadsen of Team Me. The pair were childhood friends and had made music together before, but Planet Language is their first official album. The duo throws around terms like “anything goes” to describe their approach and “a series of red wine and prog nights” to explain their influences. That is probably true, but the resulting album is not nearly as freewheeling as those descriptions make it sound.
Planet Language does get off to a terrific start. The mostly instrumental “Roppongi Hills” begins with a lively, pseudo-Japanese melody, which is quickly doubled on piano and joined by thumping taiko-style drums on the beat. Widescreen electronic chords and snare drum rolls build the song until the final minute when a chorus of wordless voices adds to the big, big feel of the track. It’s a fun, interesting opener, and it leads into the catchy electropop masterpiece “Stomping Ground". A pinging electronic melody opens the song before bass, drums, and a fuzzed-out guitar enter and the slightly nasal vocals begin. The relatively quiet verse gives way to the huge hooks of the chorus: powerful backbeat drums punctuated by the pulsing bassline, layers of synth chords filling out the backgrounds, a blipping high register synth countermelody, and sing along vocals. “Holding on to everything we’re missing / Moving on was never easy / I’m reliving distant memories, but / Losing my foothold, leaving my stomping ground.” Even the quiet mid-song bridge where the vocals softly repeat, “Headed somewhere better” is a well-considered comedown from the chorus.
After that one-two punch, the album slows down considerably, both in tempo and song quality. “Diamond Dust” is a decent track, with a complex drum rhythm underpinning its relaxed feel. But there’s not much else going on musically or melodically to really grab the ear. At best, the harmonized layers of guitars and synths in the traditional guitar solo slot is interesting, but not enough to make up for the relatively staid verses and chorus sections. “Planet Language” begins with an intro that seems like it’s building to something, but then fizzles into another laid-back song. The song takes a break from itself and essentially stops everything for a ponderous fuzz guitar solo, but then it shifts right back into that laid-back mode. A flute-like synth solo shows up later on, but it still doesn’t make that main riff feel compelling.