Art rock bands aside—far, far aside—Mercury Rev’s seventh full-length release stands on its own two feet without having to rely on Jonathan Donahue’s (of Flaming Lips fame) other musical excursions. Snowflake Midnight brings to the table a collection of reverberated soundscapes, electro-pop sensibility, and something much discarded these past few years: dream pop.
Other than Asobi Seksu’s hip appeal and Sonic Youth’s new Juno-driven popularity, the use of the ever-popular “Wall of Sound” shines like a dime in today’s indie music. Of course, fans of Radiohead will forever attribute the sound to the art rock genre, but Mercury Rev’s album is onto something sweetly genuine yet very familiar. “Snowflake in a Hot World” kicks off the album with punchy electro drums, Donahue’s Brian Wilson-esque vocals, and ambient echoes spreading thinly over gentle piano.
“Senses on Fire” slowly builds like a post-rock climax only to dive deep into an early Stereolab-like pop song. Donahue screeches through a veil of distortion “Ready or not, here I come!” and repeats the song’s title dissolving into an ending that seems all too short.
“October Sunshine” marks the midpoint of the album. This instrumental piece brings memories of Brian Eno’s Ambient series being of course ambient in nature, but not minimalist enough to put the listener to sleep. Maybe a short nap.
The album ends with “A Squirrel and I (Holding On…and then Letting Go)” sounding like an Imogen Heap track circa Speak For Yourself. By this point the listener surpasses the misconceptions of appreciating an experimental band like The Flaming Lips, an art rock band like Radiohead, and maybe Ben Gibbard’s brand of indie pop. Snowflake Midnight offers listeners not only a chance to hear where artists blend together, but where artists go to dream.