Les Jupes are Canada's next great band. Be warned: naysayers will attempt to criticise the Manitoban foursome for borrowing too heavily from the National. They'll point to singer and guitarist Michael P. Falk's assured baritone, and accuse him of aping Matt Berninger; they'll note that Marcus Paquin produced Les Jupes' new LP, Some Kind of Family, immediately after wrapping up the National's 2013 effort, Trouble Will Find Me; they'll accuse Les Jupes of copying the senior Cincinnati troop's intricate, crescendoing arrangements.
But such shallow comparisons are a disservice to both bands. Family contains no trace of the orchestral flourishes that the National have embraced on their latest albums, and Falk's vocals, while being deep and speak-sung like Berninger's, are far more declarative and in-your-face than even the most abrasive turns from that elder frontman during his band's early, unhinged Alligator era.
Falk's point-blank vocals are augmented by his braying guitar licks on "When They Dig Us Up," Some Kind of Family's first song. Drummer Jordon Ottenson pulverises his kit throughout the song's speedy chorus, giving it a punk rock bruising that few indie troops could withstand. "Everything Will Change" has an equally brisk tempo, with Ottenson delivering a shuffling beat and Falk offering a plaintive chorus that seems vulnerable and raw enough to fray his vocal chords. On midway track "The Brothers," his singing is far more melodious, complementing minimalistic instrumentation that slowly builds tension until the final minute, when Adam Fuhr's synths sizzle like live wires. Fuhr is also the star of "Bro Sis," which opens with a dazzlingly upbeat synth line that perfectly suits Falk's reverb drenched vocals and opaque, dreamy lyrics about holding "the reins of 100 horses."
On those tracks, Les Jupes sound wholly original, but the band is still thrilling while paying tribute to its influences, too. "On Miracles" features a more traditional piano line from Fuhr that wouldn't sound out of place on one of the National's recent albums, and his midway trembling synth riff would fit well on a B-side by the Antlers. Falk enunciates every lyric like a thespian on the song, making it one of his best vocal turns on the entire LP. He sounds even more theatrical on the earlier track "One Is Enough," singing in a booming voice akin to Nick Cave.
During those moments, it's clear that Les Jupes are part of storied indie rock lineage, one that they have studied intently and are unafraid to push further.