Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I ♥ Mother Mother: Mother Mother's O My Heart

Oddly enough, the first time I heard of the Vancouver band, Mother Mother, was late last year when one of my professors, who was teaching us media studies, mentioned them (well, actually gushed about them). I didn't check them out at the time (I hadn't been in the habit of taking musical recommendations from my professors), and then sort of forgot about them. Then I heard they were playing Winnipeg during the Jazz Festival, and I ignored them again without any real reason for doing so, opting not to see them live. I really had no idea what they sounded like, and so had no basis for any attitude, indifferent or otherwise. Now that their sophomore album, O My Heart, is being released today, I realize the error of my ways, and will attempt to rectify it a bit through this post. In an attempt to put O My Heart into some sort of context, I listened to their first album, Touch Up, and I discovered there's a sweet schizophrenia to their style, which spins between folk and soul and pop and indie rock like a child full of new ideas, playing make believe outdoors, pairing airy, innocent-sounding male and female voices with lyrics that are archly witty. They're like a less theatrical Bodies of Water with some slight hints of New Pornographers, Pop Levi and Sarah Slean, and this new album delivers more of their gentle, melodic brand of wryness.

The title track opens the record and falls less on the folk side of the fence, but more on the powerpop side with its driving rhythms and hiccuping melody, utilizing as many metaphors for a heart as they could fit into one song. Burning Pile builds upon an oscillating guitar for a catchy pendulum-like tune, which gallops along to a vaudeville melody in unexpected places. Their voices meld and soar while still maintaining a sort of earthiness and frankness. The album takes yet another turn as Body of Years begins like a more straightforward rock song with synthy elements as vocalist Ryan Guldemond uses his idiosyncratic unhinged style to quirk out lyrical lines into little curliques. Try to Change tones the mood down into a moodier acoustic number with beautfiul brass accompaniment, burnishing the mournfulness into something much warmer and soulful. Wisdom continues this more mellow, muted brass sound, but kicks it up with drums as it seems to revel in the blissful ignorance of youth and the avoidance of advice. Body slides and wiggles all over the strings of violins in a folkier version of Sparks while the tempo fluctuates with a mind of its own, or perhaps with the narrator's mind which seems prone to change and might be the last piece of his/her body surrendered in the song.

I was so impressed with the song Ghosting that I included it in my autumn weekly mix this week; with its plucked guitars, it definitely evokes a hazy, mellow autumn day for me and had me singing the chorus after only one listen. The mood shifts back to urgent as Hay Loft kicks into a speedy gear with almost a hip hop aesthetic for the verses - rather than gangstas with guns it's just Papa creeping through the hay loft in his longjohns, toting a gun. Wrecking Ball takes gentle banjo to a Deconstructionist/Dada approach to art while Arms Tonite stomps about in a glam posture, putting a new offbeat spin on the classic "dying in your arms" theme. Miles drifts along to piano and acoustic guitar in a pure dream of escapism, lulling you in a hammock of . The album concludes with Sleep Awake, a subtle song of childlike vocals, which has a lullaby feel at odds with the lyrics which convey the epitome of the expression "sleeping with one eye open."

So, we've all learned a little something from this post. Don't ignore a band without even having listened to them at all. And professors sometimes actually have decent taste in music.

Body of Years - Mother Mother

Arms Tonite - Mother Mother