Rafty Bastards: Most songs on Menomenas new record sound perfectly lost at sea.s new record sound perfectly lost at sea.

Sign up for our free newsletter

Menomena doesn’t write songs. Sure, a lot of the elements are there—3- to 6-minute slices of music with wit and repetition—but calling them songs is misleading. On Mines, much like on the Portland, Ore., band’s previous albums, it’s nearly impossible to discern choruses from verses. Most tracks feel like bridges that build and dissolve unpredictably, spacious transitions that toy with dynamics like ambling ocean buoys. On “TAOS,” this works to great effect—pummeling percussion builds up and then drops out, just as dramatic guitar bends jump in without a solid rhythmic undercurrent. It’s a crafty rearrangement that dodges expectations, as if the band has dismantled its favorite pop songs, melted down the pieces, and dripped them to canvas like Pollocks. So you may not find yourself humming an entire Menomena tune, but lines like the endlessly repeated “Go home: I’d like to,” from “Dirty Cartoons,” will stick for days. Often it’s difficult to decipher what Menomena’s songs are about, but dark mentions of troubled childhoods, shootings, and bizarre polygamous relationships are more unsettling for feeling somewhat dismantled. The lyrics get as disjointed as the music, but if any theme penetrates, it’s the narrator’s struggles with self-doubt—take lines like, “I thought I was quick, smart as a whip/I guess I met my match this time.” In “Queen Black Acid,” the band borrows imagery from Alice in Wonderland to grapple with relationship failures, but it inadvertently describes the challenge and adventure of the album itself: “I walk you down this rabbit trail…I stop to eat and take a nap, and now I can’t find my way back.” The logic behind Menomena’s choices isn’t always clear. The polyrhythmic African thumb pianos that flutter about aimlessly in the beginning of “Tithe” seem tacked-on—they’re odd for oddness’ sake—even if, to the band’s credit, such elements never lack surprise. There are other charming, unexpected moments, like the massive, terrifying choir of slide guitar that closes out “BOTE” like the summer’s freakiest electrical storm, or the charmingly simple piano runs on the hauntingly sparse “Oh Pretty Boy, You’re Such A Big Boy.” Mines is no massive shift in style for the band—the familiar baritone sax still pops up in all the right places; the signature, hip-hop-inflected drumming is still wildly impressive, and the three-piece still writes its atypical tunes by adding and subtracting interconnected loops—but it’s an appropriate next chapter in a truly strange band’s catalog. That doesn’t make Mines an especially accessible pop album, but for the fan willing to do some digging, it contains no shortage of clever sonic nuggets.