The beginning of a song bears much importance. For it is the beginning that has to catch you and the rest is history. Think of it this way- a person walking down the street attracts you because they look good. Physically it is appealing, but he depth comes in once the person is attractive. I like to think of music the same way. The first few moments of a song display the physicality of the composition. It has to catch attention. The sounds opening Pale Horses, the new release by mewithoutYou is definitely on the lighter side of the scale. Gentle, easy going- nothing too outrageous which I can appreciate.
Some songs are meant to smack you in the face and some songs are meant to hang back and softly pulse and build in intensity to make their impact. “Pale Horse” is first in line with its building echoing effect, percussive thud and chimes paired with a gritty set of lyrics. The next one “Watermelon Ascot” comes in as a contrast from “Pale Horse” and to me, well, it sums up the style of the band. mewithoutYou displays a dynamic of soft folk-like sounds and punk-dipped, lyrically loud and instrumentally sporadic songs. With that, the band could be easily overlooked and labeled as “alternative” because let’s face it, if it’s not pop, hip-hop, or rap, it is filed under the alternative umbrella. Nevertheless, the album is poetic and instrumentally pleasing, but in all honesty the lyrics are hard to follow. I find myself asking “what the hell are they talking about?” and at first, I saw this as a musical flaw but after referencing It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All A Dream! It’s Alright, the shouted and almost nonsensical lyrics make sense style wise. I think that is just how they are and I dig that. The biggest thing you can take from an artist is their originality and willingness to brand their creative voice.
Moving on, “Mexican War Streets” is somewhat painful and simply because it carries a bitterness and is composed in such a way that it sounds like an open poetry reading against some guitar. It transmits feelings of frustration and in its essence the song displays pure artistry. Although this is not my personal go-to song, it is catchy in the emotional sense. Looking at the album as a whole, I feel that mewithoutYou are lacking rhythmically in the vocal department, with some of their meaning being unclear, but hey just because I listen doesn’t mean I necessarily have to understand. Music can sound good without deciphering every detail, believe me.
Pale Horses transitions beautifully, with all eleven songs sequenced so they feel like they belong exactly in the spot they’re in. The end of each song leaves me wanting to hear the next one although I have to admit, I got a little lost after “Red Cow” and this particular section of the album blends a little too much. “Blue Hen” is definitely a jam I dig. A little more intense but nothing I can’t handle. “Lilac Queen”, the song that follows appears to possess well-thought lyrics and pushes a spacey yet content tone and in the beginning comes off as a little isolated in feeling. What I like about this band is their ability to hop back and forth between dynamic extremes and pull it off. They can do folky rock with a hint of punk and they can do it well. The few songs towards the end of the album, such as “Magic Lantern Days” and “Birnam Wood” allow for an easy let down after all the vocal shouts and instrumental roars have made their statement. “Birnam Wood” was actually a bit of a sound-trip. Something to close my eyes to. Exciting yes, but nothing too obtuse for the end of the album.
After hearing Pale Horses a few times, I would definitely listen to more of their work and stick them in my drawer of musical moods, placing them with the Decemberists and maybe Spoon. The closing track on Pale Horses, titled “Rainbow Signs” sounds purposefully similar to the beginning’s “Pale Horse”. Calm in nature, organic and free flowing and I love it. What’s more is the surprise of the change from a calm soft sound to struggling singing chirps and totally rockin’ back beat. This album could not be put together any better- the flow between styles and tones of musical depth was done with grace and this album changed my mind about mewithoutYou. At first, I viewed them as obnoxious and “alternative” but now I see them as artistic and original. If you want to zone out and experience something off the wall but true to itself, listen to Pale Horses and dig it.