One of the more compelling narratives mewithoutYou’s career has lent itself to is the band’s quest to find solace in its faith. At first, they seemed utterly lost in it; their first two records, [A-->B] Life and Catch for us the Foxes, are feverish, frantic post-hardcore albums characterized by heavily distorted guitars and Aaron Weiss’s panicked poetry on the conflict of faith in a secular world. They revisited this conflict on Brother, Sister, but with a sense of triumph deftly characterized in its final lyric: “I do not exist, only You exist.” Still, this surrender that made Brother, Sister a record of cathartic victory swallowed It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All a Dream! It’s Alright. The very title of their fourth LP suggests the born-again zealotry that defines it. Drawing inspiration not from conflict but from joy and folk tales, the post-hardcore sound totally eschewed in favor of Jeff Mangum-esque storytelling and vocalizing. It’s All Crazy! was a hugely divisive record, and more importantly, one that seemed to mark the end of an arc - mewithoutYou were no longer mewithoutYou as we knew them.
Which brings us to Ten Stories, and also begs the question: What will mewithoutYou do having now escaped this narrative that has defined the band for their entire career? Nothing too crazy - Ten Stories finds them as they always have been, playing upon their past without bowing to it, the result being a record that sounds both distinctly theirs and unlike anything they’ve done before. The opener, “February 1878,” is a riff on one of the classics in the band’s back catalog, “January 1979,” but though mewithoutYou have given specific songs sequels before, “February 1878” isn’t a sequel. It has verses with Weiss’s once-prominent wild-sermon delivery, but its riff is lighter; its chorus more demure. “January 1979” details a car crash Weiss witnessed, and the apathy he couldn’t escape from feeling. “February 1878” is about an elephant in a circus train. The link between them is analogous to how Ten Stories fits into mewithoutYou’s catalog. The sound on Ten Stories bears traces of mewithoutYou’s more aggressive roots but is too light to truly align with that phase in their career. At the same time, it’s also nowhere near as insistently folksy as It’s All Crazy! What we have is a wedding between the two eras, a little rugged, but also a little inspiring as Weiss’s intricate lyricism is brought out not over chugging rock or campfire songs but gentle, mostly straightforward indie rock.
And about those lyrics: Ten Stories is what it says it is, a collection of fables populated by animals and Weiss avatars, and though the stories themselves are confusing to make sense of without the aid of liner notes, they’re too well-orchestrated and articulated to glaze over. There’s a dense record here you can make sense of with a little extracurricular effort, but there’s also a powerful one you can simply hear and get. Exemplified in the cyclical closer “All Circles,” Ten Stories is a record whose strength lies in its catchiness. Weiss sings of many things on Ten Stories, but he signs off with one triumphant realization: “All circles presuppose they’ll end where they begin, and only in their leaving can they ever come back round.” It’s a simple message that resounds over the preceding record and is almost too explicit to not apply to the band itself. As mewithoutYou have entered a new phase in their career, “All Circles” reminds us that though they may have arrived at one answer in their journey, they aren’t done searching. And though Ten Stories is packed with worthy additions to mewithoutYou’s catalog (particularly on its wilder second half), Ten Stories is defined by the future it promises. Itmay not be as drop-your-jaw stunning as Brother, Sister or [A-- >B] Life, but it is good - very good, actually. Enough to make you believe that with this new sound, they can create something of that caliber again. Until then, enjoy Ten Stories for what it is. It will reward you. The album is available for purchase HERE. - Adam Downer
For those who decide whether to come or go based on the first forty seconds of an album, Restorations’ LP2 is practically tailor-made for snap judgments. After a chiming, anthemic guitar opening, the band already known for fist-raising jams lets all hell break loose with “D,” their most unrestrained opener yet. The drum kit-mauling, earth-shaking bass lines and ascendant guitar riffs can only be described as complete sensory overload, and make it clear that the following eleven songs are going to be fueled by pure viscera. If your preferences run towards structure over huge sound, this release may leave you cold; LP2’s predominant means of exploring the band’s wealth of ideas are stadium-sized instrumentation and endless waves of atmospherics, as well as a dose of ennui.
This is a murkier, more inward-looking Restorations than we’re used to. Everything that was there before, musically, is blown sky-high this time around. They’ve managed to pack ideas into every iota of the song list, aided by Jon Low’s miles-deep production; the density of the music itself is offset by an album-long meditation on place, belonging, and the ramifications of leaving the familiar behind, which makes the outsized sound that much more of an interesting direction. Juxtaposing the existential discomfort with more sophisticated, complex forays into Restorations’ sonic wheelhouse.
The spiraling guitars, one of the album’s specially prominent features, are everywhere, serving various purposes in each song. “Kind of Comfort”’s jittery glam rock aspirations accompany lyrics of searching and wanderlust. Even the more downbeat cuts (“In Perpetuity Through The Universe,” “New Old”) are propelled beyond their subject matter by the songs’ barely-concealed restless energy. At its more pensive moments, like the folk-inflected “Civil Inattention,” there is a restless undercurrent of texture and volatility that never quite lets up.
Album closer “Adventure Tortoise” is all monster buildup laced with extraterrestrial effects, kicking off into a sort of requiem for the band’s neighborhood. “I’d really like to stay to help this place,” growls Jon Loudon through his teeth, but the allure of letting it all go is too strong to resist. The longing for a place “where nobody knows your name” isn’t quite all-consuming enough to inspire real action, but it is definitely the new paradigm Loudon means.
It takes guts to pull off a release that feels ten minutes long but contains more emotional and musical texture than most records. Restorations cover a whole lot of ground on LP2, and for the most part, pull off their ambitions. A bit too sanguine for shoegaze, and maybe too heady for punk, Restorations’ second full-length album brings an intriguing palette of aspirations to their open road-ready sound, prepared to try anything and everything. - Alyssa Greenberg