London – New York’s MisterWives has returned with Connect The Dots, employing origami-style versions of the various ‘spirit animals’ adopted by each of the six band members on the striking cover art. Indeed, a common spirit clearly binds them as humans too. With this follow up to its 2015 debut album, Our Own House, MisterWives builds on its core indie-pop sound with the natural evolution that comes from obvious camaraderie within the band. The opening track “Machine” is perhaps the blatant crowd pleaser in this eleven song collection but there are plenty more earworms along the way. “Machine” sucks in a range of influences without settling on any one genre and in its lyrics fiercely decries conformity in a kind of joyous rage against the machine of government, market forces or whatever.
Connect The Dots seems an appropriate album title for a band seeking to make sense of life’s collage of experiences reprised in lead singer Mandy Lee’s vibrant songwriting. There is an underlying creative energy coursing through the record and a spontaneity that comes from the band’s willingness to experiment allied to its inherent tightness as a unit. Like a number of her contemporaries right now, Lee seems to be channelling messages of love and hope in many of her lyrics as an antidote to dark and divisive times. Closing the album with a song celebrating band fraternity, “Let The Light In”, is a particularly apt summation of the whole.
Returning to the opener, “Machine” paradoxically employs some formulaic radio-friendly tricks in its rapid-fire vocal and massive beats alongside pleas for individuality in lines like “Don’t feel like having a computer sing this phrase / Not looking for a hired name to write a song for me that sounds the same”. It’s followed by the positive band-frat vibe of “Chasing This”, a song more grounded in classic indie-pop yet still rising to more huge choruses while showcasing the wider range and reach of Mandy Lee’s vocal. Three songs in and you get the impression that the hits will just keep coming; “Only Human” seems a more personal song suggesting an indiscretion of the heart but again salving any hurt in the balm of a humanity-affirming chorus, driven along by power chords.
Whether professing love to her ‘other half’, the band’s drummer Etienne Bowler, in “Drummer Boy” or rabble rousing in the anthemic “Revolution” with a call to “Let’s start a revolution / where we all stand as one”, Mandy Lee wears her passion unguarded. She is ably supported by some stellar instrumental interplay with sax and trumpet used to great effect, adding colour to the solidity of the rock ensemble that underpins everything. The San Fermin-like horn that begins “My Brother” signals a change of mood at the midpoint of the album yet the impassioned chorus that is to come again puts the band’s stamp on what is essentially a personal tribute.
The second half of the record is as much immediate as the first but introduces yet greater diversity, not least in “Coloring Outside The Lines”, a massive dance-pop anthem with deft touches like Lee’s high-pitched oohs and a machine gun of a bridge. There is an infectious exuberance to this music which carries with it a mix of personal memories as well as songs clearly inspired by band fellowship, “Band Camp” and “Let The Light In”, while the heavy bass-laden and at times bluesy rocker “Oh Love” comes stadium ready.
A similar sentiment could be applied to “Let The Light In”, something of a tour-de-force to close the record in which each band member takes a musical bow. All in all, this is a record that wears a distinctively proud pop badge delivered by a band that is defining its own sound beyond the pastiche of influences you can detect from 80’s synth pop, through AOR and indie pop to current R&B. Dots are duly connected.
Connect The Dots is out now and available to buy on iTunes. You can catch MisterWives on tour in the US from 14 June. Details are on the band’s Facebook page.
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Tony’s great passion in life is music and nothing gives him more pleasure than unearthing good, original new music and championing independent musicians. His association with Best New Bands brings great opportunities for this. He also writes for Consequence of Sound and is a judge for Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition.
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