With Portland being championed and ridiculed for apparently being a breeding grounds for creativity and alternative lifestyles, there is some substantial evidence for its fame (other than having a really good NBA team). Menomena, with the departure of long-time member, Brent Knopf, stands a duo not in need of anything else. With their latest release, Moms, Menomena proves straight-forward indie still lives and thrives in the Pacific Northwest.
Justin Harris and Danny Seim sing their hearts out, opening the album with “Plumage,” an otherwise heavy guitar opener with the inclusion of a fat synth just buzzing along the duo’s melodic teamwork. Tracks like “Capsule” and “Pique” include “big” arrangements, with horns accenting here and there, while the duo singing in a somewhat more controlled manner than their past releases. Ghosts of Broken Social Scene’s past and the quirkiness of The Dirty Projector’s Bitte Orca already haunt this record relentlessly.
The piano track, “Heavy Is As Heavy Does,” is definitely a cryer, as Harris and Seim sing such morose lines as “hanging from my fucked up family tree.” The duo them finishes off the track, throwing themselves into a Pink Floyd-esque outro, wailing on their instruments until their pain ends.
Whenever a band loses a member, fans either trudge through the backlash or become the keyboard-ready critics. True, band members are sometimes irreplaceable, but the spirit of a band lives on through the imperfection or misdirection of its sound. There is no misdirection here, and although the lack of Knopf is apparent, it doesn’t take the power, the emotion, or the fun out of Menomena’s music.