Menomena, in its old incarnation, was by no means a new band. The Portland-based three-piece released four full-length albums (and a number of EPs) over the span of ten years, and all was going well for the trio until band leader Brent Knopf decided to call it quits and focus on his other project, Ramona Falls. But all good things must come to an end, right?
Wrong. Justin Harris and Danny Seim not only picked up right where they left off with 2010’s Mines, but proved to the world that they could make just as big of an impact as a duo. Together, the now two-piece wrote, recorded and released Moms, Menomena’s latest album (first as a duo), with more focus and speed than the band’s earlier works. In hand with Harris and Seim’s motivation, the two musicians decided to write and perform the songs themselves rather than inviting collaborators to replace Knopf.
The result is arguably Menomena’s most aggressive record to date. Seim and Harris decided to reach deep within themselves and write songs that were personal and close to their hearts. Splitting writing duties down the middle, each member wrote five tracks, with Seim’s exploring the death of his mother when he was a teenager and Harris dissecting his dysfunctional family dynamic—a single mother with a departed dad—and analyzing the deep-seated impressions his upbringing has made on his adult life.
These sentiments are weaved in each of the album’s ten tracks and shine in the slow-burning, heartbreaking “Pique,” where Harris admits “I try my best, I guess my best is not enough / and now I’m getting used to getting used by you, so much so that I’m starting to feel right at home,” and “Baton,” where Seim sings to his mother, “I wish you were in person what you are in souvenirs / I wish I could remember if my last words were sincere / I wish I could construct a better song for you, my dear.”
With the band’s revised form also comes a new experiment with instruments. Seim and Harris introduce the flute in the crunching, angry song “Capsule,” tap dancing in the forceful, spaghetti Western inspired “Don’t Mess With Latexas,” and cello in the haunting, epic album closer “One Horse.”
If Harris and Seim’s goal was to prove the band could live on without Knopf, then they certainly succeeded. Moms is one of the band’s most captivating releases to date.
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