I really like it when bands surprise me. Today’s popular musical world is overrun with tuneless hacks in neon shirts (see: the #4 album in the COUNTRY a few weeks ago) or bands specializing in self-important Pitchfork-approved fuzz-ed out dissonant hipster music that’s really not a lot of fun to listen to. Because of this unfortunate trend I’m glad bands like Mute Math exist. The band’s new album Armistice is incredible, easily one of the better albums I’ve heard in quite a while.
I was late on getting into Mute Math; I saw them at a festival show in the San Francisco area back in June, and that was my first time hearing/seeing the band. That prompted me to check out their 2006 self-titled debut, which was a solid collection of songs that really defied genre classification. Some of them were indie-pop with a nice dance-ish vibe (like the single Typical). I liked the album, but some of the mid-tempo songs dragged it down a bit.
Armistice, their follow-up album which was released last week, caught me off guard. After listening to the band’s previous work, I was expecting more indie-pop songs with dreamy guitars and nice, atmospheric rhythms. Yes, Armistice has that, but the band has perfected that sound tenfold this time around.
Nerve is a fantastic opening track, with a driving beat and some awesome drum looping (something that happens a lot on this record) that give it a great energy. This song leads into Backfire, which also has an excellent rhythm and a killer vocal hook by Paul Meany. Clipping, the third track, is one of my favorites off of the disc, it starts with some feedback-y guitar fuzz and Muse-like piano work that leads the way to a soaring chorus of ‘I don’t know who to fight anymore – I don’t know what is right anymore’. The song is a mesmerizing piece of work with some amazing sounds throughout.
Spotlight, the album’s first single, was also on the soundtrack to the movie Twilight, but don’t let that stop you from checking it out. The song has another great vocal hook by Meany that is set to more looping drums, seemingly a Mute Math trademark. To continue the same trend set by the previous three tracks, Spotlight has a great propulsive, danceable beat that dodges between indie pop and dance punk. It’s so hard to give these songs a classification….and to me that’s the mark of a great band and album.
If I had to think of a similar artist to Mute Math, I’d have to say that the band reminds me of Under the Influence of Giants. That band’s 2006 debut self-titled album consisted of songs with the same infectious indie dance-pop flavors that Armistice employs. UTIOG dissolved into obscurity and never released a follow-up to their debut, and now Mute Math has adopted that kind of sound and improved upon it greatly.
Pins and Needles clocks in around the midpoint of the album, and it’s a nice slower song that allows the listener to relax after the powerful, attention-demanding beginning to the record. Goodbye is one of the album’s best songs (along with Clipping and Spotlight), with yet another great vocal hook.
I guess my only complaint about this album would be that the songs are somewhat similar in sound – as evidenced by my repeated use of the phrase “great vocal hook and drum loops” in this review. That’s hardly a negative statement to make about this album, though, since the overall sound of the songs on this record is so stellar.
The market for this type of dreamy indie-pop goodness seems to be a large one, with Pitchfork heaping (unnecessary) praise on bands like Phoenix, whose album is decent but nowhere near as solid as Armistice. With this record, Mute Math has become one of my top ‘indie’ bands to watch, and I hope that more people get to listen tot his record. If you don’t check it out, than you don’t like good music.