mewithoutYou - Ten Stories | Album Review | By Volume

Gotta get out, before my heart explodes. Candy Says - Not Kings
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mewithoutYou

Ten Stories

A confident and charming concept album about circus animals, and other more important things.

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Author: on May 18, 2012
8.5
Pine Street
May 15, 2012

Verbose indie-rock band mewithoutYou don’t really do anything by halves. If there’s one thing that 2010’s It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All A Dream! It’s Alright had in common with their back catalogue, it went all-in with its storytelling. So even if the acoustic novelty of that record has been replaced by an alt-rock tinge (albeit a softer one than, say, Brother, Sister) you can be sure that lyricist Aaron Weiss hasn’t changed tack. And why should he, when he writes songs this compelling? Ten Stories documents the crash of a circus train and its aftermath with narratives so thorough that mewithoutYou seem to exist within a world of their own.

Opener “February 1878″ is in many ways familiar territory; while guitars intertwine, Weiss shouts poetic verse over their battle, and the song dips and rises in volume and intensity as it plays out. But it’s the only track here with no real sense of urgency; elsewhere, the tempo and structure is less leisurely by a distance, as the band spill over on “Fox’s Dream of the Log Flume,” which features Paramore’s Hayley Williams slipping beautifully into the mewithoutYou groove, and second track “Grist for the Malady Mill” finds Weiss impassioned and screaming “Don’t it just break your heart?!” with all the restraint of… a runaway circus train? Can that be a thing now?

But Ten Stories isn’t a breakneck-speed album born from such reckless moments; it’s a clever, well-paced and varied collection of very narrow melodies, which range in delivery from the aforementioned roar to “Cardiff Giant”‘s weirdly joyous refrain of, “I-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i, I often wonder if I’ve already died!” Much of this record makes the most of the mildly-smirking tone that reared its head in It’s All Crazy!‘s folk aesthetic. Just like when Weiss interrupted his train of thought about a bag of “what looked liked marijuana” to promise his mom he left it there, he cracks a joke on “Fiji Mermaid” which throws a smile onto every listening face: “Maybe there’ll be a bakery hiring, we’ll need/knead a little bit of dough to get by!” It’s a pun that’s gone as fast as it came.

The fact that mewithoutYou are comfortable enough to slip such genius in as a minor aside (just after the line, “You’ll miss having someone to blame for your sadness now, won’t you?” none-the-less) should tell you something about the way they write their songs. Ten Stories is a record of fluid musical moments which is capable of sounding composed one moment and seriously unhinged the next, and it closes with perhaps the best of the lot: “All Circles” takes one incisive lyric and loops it around an off-beat rhythm in an astoundingly assured piece of meta-writing. And that’s probably the word for Ten Stories: assured. It’s a band confident in their process sounding fresh, unique and invigorated. What more can you ask?

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