There’s nothing conventional about the trio that is Menomena. Their work is like a landmine blasting a hole in expectations. Their songwriting technique is unorthodox, and the results are pure magic. On their new release, Mines, they prove that their three-and-a-half year absence wasn’t for lack of inspiration.

I imagine these three self-proclaimed perfectionists polishing each fragment until it shines with pop-tastic glory then demolishing each explosive little bit to rebuild from the rubble. Just when you think you know where Menomena are headed, they shift gears, break the rules and take a stab at preconceptions.

Opener “Queen Black Acid” is sparse, but no less intense for its simplicity, alternately soaring and collapsing on itself. “TAOS” follows on a wash of fuzz that erupts into pure rock aggression, disjointed guitars seething against piano fragments that alternately cut in like shrapnel and then break into tinkling lightness that leads into unexpected Beach Boy-esque vocal harmonies and sax. The structure of this genius track just seems so normal on the casual listen, but upon closer scrutiny, it becomes just plain absurd.

“Killemall” is melancholy sweetness, peeling itself away in onion layers, complex and tearfully intense, carried by triumphant keyboard. “Dirty Cartoons” is barren pop that builds with expert precision as it progresses on to its mesmerizing homesick refrain.

“Tithe” opens on a sweet thumb piano composition contrasted by the building intensity of an actual piano that creeps in beneath and a guitar that slices away at the melody. The lyrics are heartbreaking, delivered on a haunting raw nerve vocal.

“BOTE” ties back to earlier releases, like “Evil Bee,” while “Lunchmeat” sounds like shattered fragments placed in a box and shaken for good measure. “Oh Pretty Boy, You’re Such a Big Boy” is about as close to a conventional track as Menomena can muster, yet it’s still slightly deranged, equal parts funky and dysfunctional.

“Five Little Rooms” is menacing as it grows to intimidating proportions and then recoils again and again into understated synth, buzz-saw guitar and trip-hop drums. The release’s final tracks wind down the whole package nicely: “Sleeping Beauty” floats by on a wave of distorted synthesizer, and “Intil” is a delicate piano-driven ballad that is simultaneously gorgeous and gut wrenching. The slamming door percussive accents are stunning, and as the song lifts at its climax, it’s heaven.

This is one of those albums that just gets better with repeated listens, each turn revealing new details to savor.

Grade: A+



Mines is currently available.