Album Review: Menomena - Mines (Barsuk)

 

Apparently, context is everything when it comes to listening to the new Menomena album. Skittering through my earbuds on the bus and at the office, Mines comes off as meandering, unfocused, and too full of ideas and incident to really capture me. But, let it burst out of the speakers of my laptop or stereo when the sun has gone down and I'm resting comfortably at home, and the album springs to life. The rhythmic dime stops, the blasts of fuzzed out bass, and the shifts in mood and accent that run through these 11 songs feel potent and visceral.

Mines is a dark record, shaded with lyrical underpinnings of distress and anguish. Not to mention colored with the tension that was apparently a constant at recording sessions for the album, if the interviews that members of the group gave in 2009 are to be believed.

The trio doesn't let those cooler tones dominate the proceedings, however. Instead, bright splashes of sound - the band's ever-present baritone sax, steel drums, Danny Seim's sparse and precise percussion, some of the best guitar playing that Justin Harris and Brent Knopf have ever committed to record - light up the palpable blackness surrounding them like blooms from a firework.

But it is neither the palpable darkness nor the sparks of light that cut through it that makes this album so appropriate for nighttime listening. Rather, the slow bubbling build of "Tithe" and the lost in the ether approach to "Sleeping Beauty" only feel best when soundtracking your favorite after sunset activities. Mines is an album to get stoned to, to make love to, to doze off to when caught up in its surprisingly soothing moments. It has a woozy, silky feel that looks all wrong when caught under the noontime sun.

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