Harris and Seim didn’t invite loads of friends or collaborators to replace Knopf; they made these songs as a duo, intent on proving—directly to themselves, and by extension, to everyone else—that Menomena essentially remains the same brazen band responsible for Friend and Foe, Under an Hour and all the gut-punch, pop-ambition moments therein. They added new instruments, like flute, cello, more of Seim’s synthesizers and the tap-dancing that actually laces through the teasing-then-charging opus, “Don’t Mess with Latexas.” For the first time, Harris and Seim, who each contribute five songs here, talked about what they were writing, too. Seim explored the death of his mother when he was but a teenager, while Harris investigated the way his own family dynamic—a single mom, with a departed dad—left indelible impressions on everything he’s done since. The album’s pieces connect, then, addressing how people must rise to face or flee circumstances beyond their control. It’s perhaps the most appropriately imaginable prompt for a band whose last two years have depended upon their ability to explore, adapt and improve.
The result, Moms, is tragic and intimate, comic and endearing, personal and motivated. In 10 songs and just less than 50 minutes, Harris and Seim cast pop cascades into noise kaleidoscopes (“Baton”), chop and twist a melody until it becomes a big dance beat (“Capsule”), and build inescapable arrays of tension and texture that finally release (“Tantalus”). Opener “Plumage” couples its surge of energy with a cleverly playful study of sexuality, while “Pique” turns the same sort of seemingly impossible tessellated-rhythm tricks that have become a Menomena trademark.
At the close of it all, the slow strangle of “One Horse” arrives as the most poignant moment yet in Menomena’s catalogue, piano plinking and strings sliding beneath Seim’s existential evasion. It’s the perfect summary statement for Moms, an album that explores both a new vulnerability and resiliency within Menomena, a duo that’s taken change not as an excuse to opt out but instead as a catalyst for growth.
Barsuk Records released Moms on September 18th, 2012