Does a concept album have to be explicitly plotted, or can its vague and mystical story be the music’s defining point as well. Candy Claws’ Ceres & Calypso in the Deep Time Forever is a prehistoric adventure that shows way more than it tells; the results are something close to spectacular. Almost orchestral dream pop that has not only weight to it, but a melodic and rhythmic insistence that has been creeping out of the genre for years. There is something uncomfortably twee, unnervingly early-aughts radio-pop to Ceres & Calypso, but the album is so focused and the pop-craft so learned that any notions of “revival” are sidelined by the album’s sheer jurassic force.
On “New Forest (Five Heads of the Sun)” Candy Claws seem to be channeling Belle and Sebastian through a Dr. Sample and ten thousand cubic meters of church reverb. The songs’ titles tell most of the albums story, with the parenthesized acting as something of a touchstone to the kind of language and the kind of world that Ceres and Calypso inhabit. “Transitional Bird (Clever Girl)” seems to reference a modern and immediate reconciliation with a literal dinosaur; the song is a combination of frenetic, glassy arpeggios, rattled percussion, and fuzzy lead guitars. If The Flaming Lips were a mid-2000s Canadian indie band they might sound something like Candy Claws, who are neither Canadian nor of this particular century.
Indeed, Candy Claws have done as good a job as anyone possibly could of making Ceres & Calypso sound like something that could be prehistoric. With some of the isolationist folk instincts of an album like Ram, Candy Claws have crafted recordings that sound like they’ve been torn at by tree branches, belched up by toxic swamps, and haunted over by prehistoric shamans. “Fern Prairie (Charade)” sounds like something that could follow an ancient amphibian through miles of underground tunnels; at heart, though, the song owes a great debt to chanteuses like Francois Hardy and even recent French electro.
The great trick with Candy Claws is in identifying the references they make with their music; Ceres & Calypso is an album of pop reconfigurations in some vibrant new clothing. “Fallen Tree Brigade (Brave Rainbow Rider)” is a fairly typical bossa nova pop track, not dissimilar to Emilie Simon’s “Flowers.” But the song is presented as if written from a pterodactyl’s nest, and the deception is a convincing one. Ceres & Calypso in the Deep Time Forever could be too classically weird to find much of a footing amongst indie pop’s less careful creative communities, but it is an album worthy of its haughty name and worthy of the pop it seems to be rebuilding.