+/-, or Plus/Minus, has had a somewhat long career. Spanning more than a decade, their brand of deliciously dorky but brutally honest indie rock is something rare these days in an “industry of cool.” While being popular in Asia (Japan loves quirky/mathy rock), their influence hasn’t gone unrecognized in the states. Their past four full-lengths mixed bits of electronic music and what sounds like what would have come out of Toronto in 2005. Their recent effort, Jumping the Tracks, is well, a blast to listen to.
The album opens with “Young Once,” already showcasing Chris Deaner’s technical drumming. While the percussion is somewhat busy, it’s never overwhelming or too complex. It’s just enough to let the listener know Deaner can do more than just keep a beat. Combined with James Baluyut’s singing, the sound comes off as almost post-rock in nature, but the lack of a horn and string-filled buildup keeps the band on the ground.
Songs like “Toe the Line” and “There Goes My Love” are just bursting with twee cuteness; it’s hard not to think this could be on Seth Cohen’s playlist, wherever he is in fictional Orange County. +/-‘s music really does hearken back to what was considered “indie rock” in the mid 2000s: moody but not depressing guitar music with “outsider” lyrics. It was “hip,” but also unbearably geeky. Baluyut nails the the sound of teen angst right on the head. “Exorcising Your Ghost” is the perfect marriage of the band’s electronic prowess and their pop sensibility. But they’re not just throwing a bunch of beeps and boops at their guitars. Baluyut employs the use of synth textures to add a separate layer of tension or the sound a ghost would make leaving your body.
The album ends with “I’m a Little Teapot,” a cute, twinkly chunk of Starbucks waiting to be served while you study for your chemistry finals. It’s calming and fun, much like the entirety of this album. Jumping the Tracks is a great re-entry after a four-year gap since +/-‘s last release.