on July 27, 2010
Menomena's particular method of songwriting is typically discussed in equal measure with the music itself in any review of a Menomena work. Essentially, they use some custom software to loop tracks while they improvise small pieces of music together until they edit together a full song. On previous releases, discussion of this technique was warranted because those albums sounded like they had been pieced together from tiny fragments, with all the unpredictability and excitement that this method implies. On Mines, the band sounds a little more traditional than their previous releases, though no less creative. Though Dealer was used to construct this album, it sounds like the product of more traditional writing and recording. Regardless of how the band put together the record, it's a strong collection of songs, showcasing the band's ability to shift gears frequently and efficiently within songs, with each one showing a number of styles and techniques fleshed out to create a meaningful work. Mines showcases some of Menomena's best songs, such as the pounding Queen Black Acid or the foreboding Tithe, both of which sound like a distillation of the songs Menomena has been working on since their debut in 2003. Less eccentric and random than its predecessors, Mines is a taut and efficient work, though it loses none of the creativity the band is known for. Another great album for 2010, and something old and new fans alike are sure to dig.
on July 27, 2010
Formed in Portland, Oregon, Menomena consists of Justin Harris, Brent Knopf, and Danny Seim. Their first record, I Am the Fun Blame Monster!, was built using a looping software program called DLR or "Deeler," short for Digital Loop Recorder, as the cornerstone of the project. Deeler was created by Knopf, the band's keyboard player and guitarist. After a tempo is set, Deeler starts recording one of the members of the band in a loop. Once that track is set, the recording is then passed to the next player who records an additional part to the same track. This process continues until each member has contributed to the track and any extra desired instrumentation has been added.
Now, three albums later, Menomena is still using their trademark looping technique as the cornerstone of their creative process. Opening with "Queen Black Acid," a simple strumming of the guitar leads into a calm drum beat which paves the way for the vocals. Additional instruments including keys and sleigh bells are occasionally added into the mix as the song progresses, but the original guitar loop continues throughout the track. Although it might seem as though this could get boring quickly, the detailed layers Menomena uses to expand their original idea are more than enough to keep the listener interested.
There is no greater example of how Menomena's looping song structure can build into some of the most fascinating stratified tracks than "Tithe." A xylophone intro fades into the distance as a melancholy piano begins the true loop of the song. Suddenly, a distorted guitar gets pressed into the mix standing out like a sore thumb. This is only a sneak peak of what is to come, however, because the guitar layer is pulled away as quickly as it arrived in order to introduce the first verse of the song. As soon as the drums come in, the guitar makes its return in the same part of the loop, but suddenly feels much more in place with the rest of the instrumentation. This is a classic Menomena formula and the resulting mix is so cleverly constructed that no instrument is lost in the background.
Menomena's style is not for everyone. The lead single, "Five Little Rooms," provides an excellent introduction to the band's unique take on music, but listeners who find it compelling may still have a hard time grasping onto some of the less pop-oriented tracks like "Bote" or "Lunchmeat." That being said, Mines is an excellent introduction to Menomena's experimentation and after three years, fans of their previous work will find this release well worth the wait.
Similar Artists: Wolf Parade, TV On the Radio
Track Suggestion: "Five Little Rooms"
on January 1, 2014
I can't believe there are so few reviews and ratings of this incredible album.
I discovered Menomena through their album Friend & Foe, but it took me years to make it past the first track (which is, sadly, the weakest on that album). One day I finally made it to the third track, "Wet and Rusting," and the keyboard melody at 1:40 hooked me. Finally, I gave the rest of the album a serious listen... I was ashamed when I realized how many years I'd wasted--how many Menomena concerts I must have missed!--by not discovering the album sooner. I fell more and more in love with Friend & Foe every time I played it. (Humorously, when I listen to that same part of "Wet and Rusting," it's now the bass that stands out to me.) Months after I fell in love with Friend & Foe, I realized that I really needed to check out Menomena's other albums.
I've enjoyed all four of Menomena's traditional albums so far (I Am the Fun Blame Monster, Friend & Foe, Mines, and Moms), but Mines is hands-down my favorite. It took me a few listens to really appreciate it, but that's always been the case with me for albums that have the most staying power. If I like something instantly, I tend to tire of it quickly. More complex songs take longer to appreciate, but they just keep getting better and better with every listen.
There isn't a single bad song on this album. I certainly have my favorites (I love "Taos" for its high energy, "Killemall" for its spookiness, "Dirty Cartoons" for its heart, and "Lunchmeat" for whatever it is that makes it such a ridiculously good and haunting song. "Lunchmeat" is my favorite on the album), but every track is strong. Menomena's subsequent album, Moms, while enjoyable, is not quite as good (Brent Knopf's departure from the band is definitely felt). Mines is, without a doubt, one of my all-time favorite albums.
Music is a domain where people differ passionately in their taste, so I often find music reviews unhelpful. A person who adores the Top 40 hits will write a glowing review of those songs, but if our tastes are polar opposites then their review is worthless to me. So here are my other favorite bands to help you decide if our tastes are similar (and if they are, then I recommend Mines to you): The National, Modest Mouse (their early albums), Radiohead, Cold War Kids (their early albums), and British Sea Power.
on June 22, 2015
Incredible album from a great band. Funky music with strong lyrics. Their albums tend to have a singular focus, so listening start to finish is fun if you're into discussing an album or song's meaning. Hands down my favorite by them. Tithe, Dirty Cartoons, and TAOS
on February 21, 2012
When I first received a copy of Mines back I was in a music funk of sorts. I had been really excited about several releases that were falling well short of my expectations and I couldn't quite figure out why. The National's "High Violet" really let me down after the first several spins and I thought "how could I be this massively disappointed with one of my favorite bands"? What I soon discovered was that with each "highly anticipated" new release, I had "my expectations" of what the record should sound like (based on my favorite parts of a bands previous records) and I was not listening with a true music lovers ear. I had been treating my favorite bands as if they owed me the same record over and over again, which is a huge mistake. This discovery led me to put on High Violet again with a new frame of mind and fall completely in love with it and open myself again. With this in mind I wanted to give the same opportunity to the new Menomena record and I am glad that I did.
Mines is a dense, mature and tense album from one of the more creative bands of the last ten years. While all the trademark Menomena sounds are still intact they yet again expanded their musical landscape to construct tightly packed songs. Take the album's closer "INTIL" which personifies everything that is great about this band. The track starts with a simple and meloncoly piano line and the opening (and closing) haunting line of"I never thought I'd Lie" aka "INTIL". This song is a downer, without being an in your face downer. It tears at you without being blatant about it. The opener "Queen Black Acid" starts as a simple affair, but once again they have played with our senses. Overdubbing baritone sax and distorted guitar slides (doubled with electronics) to keep you from becoming to familiar with it. Like the person who keeps you at arms length by being vague and impersonal, while still being intriguing. Several other tracks has this same vibe such as "Oh Pretty Boy, You're Such A Pretty Boy" and "Killemall" which both hug you and shove you away at the same time and that is what makes this album great.
This album isn't without its faults as middle tracks "BOTE" and "Lunchmeat" fail to qualify as the "best Menomena tunes" but 2 blah tracks out of 11 is a good ratio for me. I would be stupid to not mention the best track on the album "TAOS" which in a strange way comes across as an inspirational anthem. You find yourself singing along at the top of your lungs with the refrain "Oh I'll Bet I know What you Like, At Least Think I know What you Might" as your head bobs along to the beat.
Menomena has once again raised the bar for themselves and challenged listeners to step out of a comfort zone, but they have done it in a way that makes you totally comfortable in the new mold.
on October 3, 2010
Menomena has never seemed as though it had a "leader". The three members share singing responsibilities. The share writing credits. No one instrument can take credits for their sound. They truly are a band of musicians, a band you can listen to over and over and over again. There always seems to be some little sounds or nuances that you didn't seem to hear before. While drummer Danny Seim sticks to his percussion (if you could drum like him, who would ask you to stop), Brent Knopf bounces from guitar to keyboard to glockenspiel and Justin Harris switches between saxophone and bass. Mines may not be the most instantly catchy Menomena album. Its more layered and sonically dense. There are still hook-a-plenty and plenty of experimentation, but the songwriting seems more mature. The parts are more integrated and and the styles and strengths of each member seem to compliment each song.
Definitely give this album a listen, then listen to it again! It wasn't my favorite Menomena album the first time I heard it, but it may be now.
SIDENOTE: I highly recommend seeing Menomena perform live if the opportunity presents itself!
on June 15, 2011
Jeph Jacques, of Questionable Content fame, listed this album as number three on his top 10 for 2010. I liked other bands he has suggested in the past, such as Fever Ray and Röyksopp, so I gave Menomena a shot. I am very happy that I did, as Mines improves with each listen. I am now spreading the word amongst friends, coworkers, customers, and family.
on August 23, 2010
I've been a huge Menomena fan for years, and was not disappointed with this latest album. Mines is a bit slower and darker in my opionion, but I absolutely love it. They take music composition in new and exciting directions that few artists can pull off. If you're into Indie bands, this is a MUST HAVE!
on July 28, 2010
When I first heard Menomena, I was extremely impressed with the way they put a song together. Elements, refrains and motifs were introduced, removed and eventually came back in with the addition of other elements that had worked their way in and out of the track in the meantime. I found it refreshingly creative...genius even.
While Mines does not completely do away with this formula, it's far less creatively structured than its forebearers. Or maybe it's that they have sanded the edges of the formula away so thoroughly that you can no longer detect it's intricacies. Either way, the slow build to dramatic apex now feels more formulaic and inevitable and contains none of the joy that used to be experienced just getting there.
While this album has its moments (Queen Black Acid, TAOS, Killemall, Tithe, Five Little Rooms), I'm not certain it ever manages to create any of the best moments of the first two albums. Killemall is likely as close as this album comes to the artisitic goodness of previous Menomena work.
If you're just discovering Menomena with this album, I strongly recommend checking out their back catalogue.
on November 19, 2010
The stuff that preceded this disc is good, unique, strong music. This record is like an orgasmic result of their earlier explorations. Just buy it already!Stranded