Menomena‘s latest release, Moms, came out just a few days before the first official day of autumn, and if you’re looking for a soundtrack for the fall, Moms is it. The album’s transition from bright, indie pop/rock to somber, MIDI and loop driven lullabies is perfect for the season.
This is the first release from Menomena since Brent Knopf left the band in 2011 to focus on Ramona Falls, but Menomena hasn’t let that get them down. Although you never really know exactly what to expect from a Menomena release, Moms has the booming driving rhythm, MIDI loops, and heavy saxophone that we’ve come to know as Menomena staples. I’ve decided to highlight a few tracks here, but, for me, at least, Menomena has never been a band that produces songs. Menomena produces albums that should be listened to in full, on repeat, in the background, where the music grows on your subconscious until you don’t even realize you’re singing along.
The concepts of birth, growth, and motherhood are present throughout the album, but the album’s main focus seems to be relationships through time: familial, social, and even one’s relationship with himself. Moms opens with the bright, poppy “Plumage”, complete with hand claps and catchy guitar and piano melodies. The opening lines “I’m nothing more than an animal / in search of another animal / to tame and claim as my own,” also let you know that the concept of relationships is already up for discussion.
The beat-heavy “Capsule” starts out with crunchy guitars riffs and jazzy saxophone. Shortly after the lines “While I’m evolving from a child to an aging child / you’re maturing from a memory to a legacy,” the track itself evolves into a darker, loop-driven elecro-pop ballad. In “Pique”, we get a driving rhythm, playful sax, and the idea that “I’m starting to feel right at home.”
As we move into the middle of the album, we start to notice that transition start to take place. “Giftshoppe” still supplies the multilayered rhythm, melodic piano, and – dare I say – “aural landscape” that Menomena produces so well, but the feeling of a looming darkness starts to creep in. The track title “Tantalus” refers to something desirable that is just out of reach – and perhaps something we haven’t noticed until it’s too late. Here, the idea of relationships through time starts to take more of an uneasy tone, with the lines, “If nostalgia hasn’t slit my wrists, this premonition will.”
By the time you reach “One Horse”, Menomena has transitioned us from the bright autumn daylight to the cold, dark night. The haunting piano, ghostly vocals, and bittersweet strings are only partially relieved by the brighter bridge, but the slow lullaby still leaves you ready to wrap up in a blanket and sleep until spring… …but if you’ve taken my advice, you have the album on repeat. As “Plumage” starts back up, you’ll be reenergized and ready to go out into that crisp autumn evening and see what else the season has to offer.