Release date: July 27
Rating (Skip, Stream, or Buy): Buy
Menomena's fourth record has been a long time coming (it's been nearly four years since its critical smash of a predecessor, Friend and Foe, was released), and from the sounds of it, the trio's spent that time doing a lot of serious, serious soul-searching. There's nothing cute or quirky about Mines; it's a dark and weighty record that indicates that, tonally at least, something's shifted since the band was famously photographed nakedly crammed into a bathtub together. In fact, the best tracks on this record are the ones that convey black and utter despondency: the opening track, "Queen Black Acid," slumps along as Justin Harris moans, "you bring me down." "Taos" is thrashing and unsettling, with Black Keys-like bluesy guitar riffs. The ghostly "Five Little Rooms" is punctured with ominous grunts of a baritone sax. "Oh Pretty Boy, You're Such a Big Boy," with its trails of deep, low keys and stretching vocals, is so searingly gloomy you can picture it playing as you're being rowed down the river Styx.
Mines packs a shocking amount of visceral emotion; the entire record plays out like a depressed close friend spilling his failures and insecurities to you. It's touching and chilling all at once -- the emotional climax comes with "Bote," a eddy of distorted guitars, guttural vocals, and stormy nautical imagery. Harris sings, "I thought I was tough/ I thought I was strong/ Thought I could handle anyone who came along," before the rest of the song proves those lines wrong, comparing him to a sinking ship full of holes. The defeat of spirit and bravery is a strong theme on Mines, and the irony is that Mines is an incredibly brave record, laying bare an entire catalog of human vulnerabilities, weaving them through the intricacies of song, and transforming them into something powerfully moving.