Album Review: Mini Mansions' Self-Titled Debut is Hypnotic Psych-Pop Majik

Artist: Mini Mansions

Album: Mini Mansions

Release date: November 2

Label: Ipecac/Rekords Rekords

Rating (Skip, Stream, or Buy): Buy

Download: I recommend owning this one, but for a preview you can stream the entire album on Rekords Rekords' website. You should also hit the band's MySpace page to listen to their drony, fantastic cover of "Heart of Glass," which isn't included on the album.

Earlier this year, the psych-rock trio Mini Mansions -- Zach Dawes, Tyler Parkford, and Queens of the Stone Age bassist Michael Shuman -- released a song called "Monk" that was, by all counts, everything an unforgettable pop song should be. Dark, moody, and deeply bluesy, "Monk" still swings with a thrumming bassline, hymnal-sounding organs, buzzing three-part harmonies, and Shuman piteously crying, "What'd you two-time me for?" And then there's the ubiquitous "ooo's," a staple in most great pop songs. Shuman's manages wordlessly to convey pain and emptiness; it's the best "ooo" I've heard this year.

While "Monk" is the standout track on Mini Mansions' eponymous debut album, the rest of the record is fascinating.

Mini Mansions sound eerily like the Beatles circa 1967-69 -- seriously, if you're a White Album fan, this is guaranteed to be your new thing -- and they frequently acknowledge the influence, particularly that of John Lennon. But there's also a certain bleakness and sneer to their sound that seems to owe a debt to Elliott Smith (who, of course, also looked to the Beatles songbook for influence.) Listen to the plinking piano and aggressive orchestral surge on "The Room Outside" or "Seven Sons," which shares a strikingly similar downward-spiralling melody with Smith's "Can't Make a Sound."

Mini Mansions makes its own mark by showing how diverse the sounds of pop psychedelia can be. There's the jerky, stuttering "Crime of the Season," with its echoing rounds of vocals, the sparse yet dizzying "Kiddie Hypnogogia." They even try their hand at some head-scratching Magical Mystery Tour-style nonsense lyricism on the luscious "Majik Marker" -- they sing lines like "cocaine madmen/ crazy kazoo/ ticky diabetics hanging up on you... All the girls at my school are ventriloquists/ Tricky-dicky hippopotamus" before concluding, "I can't trip to get over you... I can't wait to wake up from you." Ironic, since Mini Mansions isn't the type of record you can just wake up from -- no matter the tempo, pacing, or rotation of voices and instrumentation, every song is utterly hypnotic.

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