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Arts in Review

MALK – Born Elated

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Released at the beginning of September, MALK’s Born Elated gives listeners a record that, intentionally or not, manages to stake out a very clear patch of land over which the B.C. foursome reign lax but supreme.

Radiating the same conscious indifference with which the drooping hand of Michelangelo’s Adam reaches out to God, Born Elated inches towards — dare I say it — the divine.

All throughout Born Elated, Malk give us two things: an eerily fine-tuned pop sensibility, and a delivery that is wholly bent on shrugging its shoulders, on distancing itself from any liveliness the band might have accidentally let slip through the cracks. Meanwhile, tracks like “Dried Out” only manage to further convince us that what MALK really wants is for everyone to dance, in spite of their often downcast melodies: Abbotsford’s modern-day Echo and the Bunnymen. And for the most part, MALK compel in us the urge to dance with an unnerving consistency.

Other tracks on the record take the lethargy of a hellish summer and mold it into songs that would be pop hits if it weren’t again for the fact that they just don’t seem to care enough about modern genre staples to muster up the false bravado of a top 40 hit, and to MALK’s credit, the content on Born Elated is so polished that in my opinion it’s more than capable of going toe-to-toe with its more saccharine contemporaries without breaking a sweat.

As far as pop sensibilities go, “Trillion” immediately resonates as a contender for the most dance-worthy two minutes to come out of the Valley in years. Sure, “Strange Diet” treats us to a fake-start that trades one crowd-pleasing riff for another which is just as likely to get bodies moving. (One doesn’t need to be overly imaginative to picture wave upon wave of Carport patrons, nodding their heads appreciatively, quickly change gears and begin swaying into each other, whooping and laughing, like a field of sweaty, beer-toting lilies ruffling in the wind.) But even so, “Trillion” takes the cake.

I sincerely doubt that there’s a song out there that is more likely to make a roomful of 20-somethings ignore their fears and insecurities, and shamelessly jump around, dancing their moody, possibly drunk, and definitely sweaty little hearts out with wild abandon. Despite lyricism which may or may not communicate melancholy implications regarding alcoholism, the track is high up on the list of material previously released by MALK.

It’s refreshing to find, then, that Born Elated is a markedly balanced record. “Dejected,” for example, sees MALK stretch itself towards a broader thematic palette. And if there’s one accomplishment that deserves recognition, it’s that on Born Elated, MALK shows themselves capable of riding a small groove amid their stylistic origins, situated at a valley between the more energetic aspects of the record, and a surprisingly restrained structure. Here, MALK know when to go all-in, and when to pull back. The result of which ends up being reflected in a record that avoids the pitfalls of mining a genre-staple for 10 songs, while at the same time maintaining cohesion throughout. In comparison to their earlier material, Born Elated showcases a MALK that is more in tune with itself, more sure of what it wants and aims to be.

And at the end of the day folks, you don’t need me to tell you how successful MALK is in reaching that aim, because Born Elated is far more compelling in arguing on its own behalf than I could ever be in arguing for it.

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