Menomena is a great buzz band. They burst out of Portland (Oregon) a few years back on the back of a strong second full-length album, and have gained critical and popular acclaim through an engaging, contemporary sound. They fit in perfectly with ironic hipsterdom: it’s easy to imagine them being listened to in a perfectly (fake) woodsy lodge-style bar (in a dense urban neighborhood), wearing one’s trucker hat and probably something polyester.
The thing is, despite the cliché, they’re also good, and their new album, the soon-to-be-released Mines, is a great example of their breadth and talent, a mélange of styles and sounds. It perfectly blends indie pop sensibilities with hints of 60s and 70s retro sounds – whether dirty bass lines, tambourine, or a hair-band-and-lycra-pants stylings (as on “TAOS”). And yet… it synthesizes the sounds in such a way as to avoid sounding simply, retro. On the occasionally haunting “Killemall,” for example, they carry a beautiful vocal line over the hurling sound of a Wurlitzer, melodically modern while leaving no doubt as to their lineage.
Reminiscent of their Portland roots, “Dirty Cartoons” brings to mind the understated, yet equally beautiful power of Stars of Track and Field – but it is followed by “Tithe,” which begins with a John Cage-like minute of the sounds of bottles being tapped melodically and a-rhythmically before venturing forth in rather sparsely-written yet shimmery vocal-focused indie pop.
Other standouts on the album include: “Oh Pretty Boy, You’re Such a Big Boy,” which is an adventurous song with a subtly catchy bass line; “Five Little Rooms,” which feels like the song your “cooler than you” art friends in college would have made; and, the gorgeous “INTIL.”