mewithoutYou ‘Ten Stories’ – album review

mewithoutYou: “Ten Stories”. (Self Released)
CD/LP/DL
Available Now.

Literate indie-rockers & serial genre hoppers mewithoutYou have just released (today) their fifth album, Ten Stories. Our writer Maren McGlashan has the lowdown on it.

Ten Stories, the fifth release from Philadelphia-based mewithoutYou, weaves an entire world of its own through intricate soundscapes, free-form instrumentation and poetic lyrics. Based on the story of an ill-fated traveling circus, the record draws, at times, comparisons to Neutral Milk Hotel, Fugazi, and vocal qualities of David Byrne, while never losing a distinct sense of unique composition. All at once, it’s folksy, abrupt, shifty, heavy and absolutely inventive, and a type of return-to-form for the band following their last record, It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All a Dream! It’s Alright.

Each track on Ten Stories has the ability to take you exactly where you’d never expect, and many of them do. The first song, “February 1878,” starts out loud and heavy, but the mood quickly shifts nearly two minutes into the song. From there, the pace ebbs back and forth from heavy to mellow – angsty to thoughtful – and back again, which is reflected in tracks throughout the entire disc. Aside from tempo shifts made by the free-form instrumental backdrop, many of these dramatic switches are conducted by lead singer Aaron Weiss, whose voice ranges from being raspy and angry (usually in spoken word) to melancholy and submissive (usually sung).

Perhaps more striking than the composition and melody of the songs are Weiss’ lyricism. Though nearly every song on the record has lyrics that could easily double as poetry, in a particular stand-out track, Fox’s Dream of the Log Flume, he sings,

Wondering whether we were someone better then…
Or maybe just better able to pretend,
And what better means to our inevitable end?
You know, I don’t know if I know, though some with certainty insist,
No certainty exists!

Poignant and powerful, Weiss’ masterful use of language helps him confront deep themes of existence, God, and regret, with a kind of literary ease. Though Weiss often lends his words to an assortment of animal narrators, his raw lyrics come across as inseparable from his own emotions and experiences.

Call mewithoutYou what you will. Truth be told, I’m still not sure whether they’re mostly indie, alternative, post-punk, post-emo, garage rock, religious, or some unique manifestation of all-of-the-above (though after listening to Ten Stories, I’m betting on the latter). Perhaps it is exactly this – the ability to escape categorization – that makes the record so refreshing. Whatever the case may be, Ten Stories is a wildly inventive record that reaffirms the idea that mewithoutYou is an important folkcore band of right now.

All words Maren Glashan. More by Maren can be found here.

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