Three years can seem like a lifetime in the ever-changing, frenetically charged realm of independent music. These days, decent follow-up albums are harder to come by, and unfortunately, artists tend to be condemned to the netherworlds of this merciless industry about as quickly as they are propelled into the heavens of stardom. Friend and Foe, Menomena's 2007 debut on Barsuk Records, was a commendable effort to say the least. The album served as a platform for the band's departure from the brilliantly minimalistic (but almost laboriously barren) euphony of their previous body of work. Every song was manicured to perfection and embodied a sort of maturity that was absent amidst so many recordings of the day. The album's critical success garnered immediate concern, since many questioned whether the band could produce a superior follow-up. Though doubts lingered heavily over the heads of Menomena fans worldwide, the band's latest LP, Mines, swiftly disrupts said pessimistic qualms and proceeds to put all disenchanted misanthropes in their place.
From start to finish, Mines proves to be an immaculate collection of meticulously syncopated rhythms, ethereal vocal arrangements and sagaciously audacious lyrics. When a song should be served by space, they give it plenty -- allowing the music to speak for itself, which it does seemingly effortlessly. With its hypnotic and phlegmatic guitar line the album opener, "Queen Black Acid," fools you into believing the album will be simplistic in form -- possibly paying homage to some of the band's earliest recordings. However, the following track, "TAOS," snatches the listener out of the tranquility that was so easily established in the former, and sets you up for the bearably oscillating thrill-ride that is Mines.
Menomena does its best to eschew the conventional verse/chorus/verse configuration in modern music -- one of the standout tracks, "Dirty Cartoons," exemplifies their attempt to stray from this run-of-the-mill criterion. Toward the song's finale, Danny Seim repetitively bellows an agonizing "go home" with vocals that impinge a sort of heartbreak that transcends emotional recognition. Every second of the nearly five-minute-long composition evokes an unrelenting despair that you as the listener can only beg to be relieved of.
Mines is filled with moments like these, as well as instances of breathtaking enchantment ("Killemall"), inescapable nostalgia ("Tithe"), and every once in a while, inappropriate hilarity ("Five Little Rooms"). The album is rich in symphonic diversity and inherently classifies itself as magnetic. Upon the record's conclusion, Menomena leaves the listener revived and completely satisfied, feeling as though Mines is truly theirs to enjoy and subsume for years to come.