At once grim and grand, The Standard makes electrified arena rock in miniature
In an era of mannered eclecticism, The Standard prefers to ride a cohesive mid-tempo vibe—any track on its consistently brilliant fourth album is a digest of the whole album’s tics. Take opener “Red Drop”—Tim Putnam’s sincere, slightly strangled vocals creak along with a passing resemblance to The Tragically Hip’s Gordon Downie. Repetitive, lilting guitar chords unfurl in long, fuzz-veiled lines, underpinned by a twinkling piano phrase and richly textured percussion that echoes and rattles with uncommon precision. Electronic fillips lurk in the background, unassuming yet quietly majestic. The ballads array the same elements in slower, softer configurations: “Not Asleep” finds Putnam’s winsome voice drifting through nervously insistent drums and watercolor washes of starry melody. Then the piano appears, shimmering, and a group of chords lift up like plaintive hands. The Standard pays close attention to detail without losing sight of the song; it recognizes the power of restraint and casts anthem rock in a counterintuitive yet winning posture of supplication.