Indie rock quintet mixes soaring vocals, catchy melodies, and isolation
The opening seconds of Mother Mother’s isolationist manifesto, The Sticks, are among the most cheery you will hear. The album’s preamble,“The Omen”, has a simple piano line that is perfect contrast to the cold, lonely feeling the rest of the album exudes. In it, Ryan Guldemond’s voice crashes asynchronously with those of a more innocent youth’s, creating a fabric of brooding that fades without a resolution into the titular track, “The Sticks”. This track begins with a familiar “When the Levy Breaks” stomp, with booming, echoing snares, and bells. Slowly it builds with woozy, staggering stabs of guitar and then fades again, this time to a buzzing bass line and Guldemonds’s distorted vocals, which combine with the distant backup vocals of sister, Molly Guldemond, and band mate, Jasmin Parkin to create a soundscape that evinces a landscape of a leafless forest in wintertime. The band manages to simultaneously infuse solitude and a catchy rock sound, which swirls and crescendos into an avalanche of “la-di-das” and strings.
“The Sticks” is to set the tone of the entire album, as a whole. The third track and the album’s first single, “Let’s Fall in Love”, is the antithesis of a love song. It’s heavy, brooding guitar and bass create a bed for Guldemond’s rich vocals, and the lyrics serve as a warning to any person seeking a long-term relationship. It’s a dismal in message, to say the least, but the song retains the signature Mother Mother structure, which means that it will remain stuck in your head for days to come.
If you are looking for a near perfect mixture of pulsing guitars, dance patterns, and angsty vocals, look no further than the eighth track, “Bit by Bit”. The track should have been made the album’s first single, and it is immediately apparent why this is true. It is an amalgamation of all the themes of the album, but put over a dance pattern and guitar line that would make Franz Ferdinand envious. Big and loud, it is infectiously poppy and is instantly danceable.
Other tracks show a softer side to Mother Mother, including notable tracks “Dread in My Heart” and “Happy”. These songs show a softer, more vulnerable side of Guldemond, and it is on these tracks that the listener seems to have the most organic and intimate knowledge of Guldemond’s thoughts. All the lyrics seem to be the singer’s most personal thoughts, especially those of “Happy”. Though the lyrics are as sinister as ever, it feels as if these songs offer a reprieve from the otherwise gloomy album simply due to the more airy nature of the guitar work.
Mother Mother blends pop hooks and the edginess of rock effortlessly for their fourth studio release, and it is a must listen for any fans of indie rock.
Think: Portugal. the Man sensibilities mixed with a little Led Zeppelin
FCC: Cursing on some songs
Label: Last Gang Records
Release Date: Feb. 12, 2013
Reviewed by Jason Ralston