“Lush soundscapes” is a phrase I always use when cracking jokes about hipster music reviews on sites like Pitchfork and others of that sort. It sounds like the kind of phrase uttered by blathering dopes slobbering over some new “underground” band that will sweep the girl jeans-wearing, lumpy-haired, v-neck clad goons to their collective feet and pay attention.
It is in this manner that I imagine bands like Vampire Weekend rose to cyber-fame. Well, much to my chagrin, there really isn’t any other way for me to describe Mew’s new album No More Stories are Told Today, I’m Sorry, they Washed Away. Despite that title, which would make Fiona Apple blush, Mew has crafted an incredible, masterful album that thoroughly impressed me. I was surprised by this record because it was the first Mew record I’ve ever heard. A friend suggested them to me a few months ago but I never got around to listening. Then I started reading more and more things talking about them on the Interwebz, and finally decided to give them a listen.
Much like how Mute Math’s new album Armistice blew me away, this album has had a similar effect on me. Mew, who released four albums (!) before finally gaining me as a fan, has an eclectic sound that is both challenging and beautiful.
If I was a movie director, and I was creating a dream sequence scene with Zooey Deschanel (*swoon*) flittering around in a field in the woods somewhere being quirky as only Zooey can, I would probably try to use Mew as the soundtrack. Their tunes are dreamy, orchestral pieces that are as mesmerizing as they are breathtaking.
This may sound like I’m overselling the album a bit, but it’s one of those albums that gets better with repeated listens. I definitely have to check out the band’s back catalogue after this. New Terrain starts off the disc, and uses backward masking and a strange, off-time beat to great effect. If you play the song in reverse, an entirely different song is apparent (so I’ve read), which is pretty damn cool. ‘Beach’ at times reminds me of the Flaming Lips, especially the way the vocal harmonies play together, as they sound like Wayne Coyne a little bit. It’s a highlight for sure. After Intermezzo 1, Silas the Magic Car slows things down and presents the album’s first real dream sequence soundtrack. I listened to this one in my car and I swear time slowed down and sped up at the same time. Don’t ask me how that happened, ask Mew.
Cartoons and Macrame Wounds follows Silas, and is a 6-minute opus that marks the end of a remarkable two-song combo that to me are the best tracks on the disc. Sweeping, crashing instruments, slow piano arrangements, and haunting vocals saying things such as “put your hand in mine, we will go skating…” make the song both creepy and irresistibly strange. Like I’ve said, this is the first time I’ve listened to Mew, so if this album is a radical departure in sound from their previous work, I wouldn’t know any better.
What I’ve heard on No More Stories… is enough to make me a big fan, and forced me to use the phrase I loathe so much.
Does that mean I’m a hipster? Hell no. My closet is V-neck free and I don’t wear scarves in the summer time. I just like good music. Maybe it’s a thing with bands whose names start with the sound “Mew” that make them inherently good (see: Mew, Mute Math, Muse). I don’t know what it is, but whatever it is, I like it. Nice work, Mew.