There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Art punks, IDM heads, and modern composers all have one thing in common: They’re smart people who make music for other smart people. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that concept, of course, because the world has its share of dumb music and dumb listeners. But the brainiac scene has its hangups. It can be joyless and hookless, for one, with an unspoken distaste for all of the things that make some of that allegedly dumb music worth listening to. There are exceptions, though. Obrigado Suadade, Bubble Core Records founder Adam Pierce’s fifth disc as Mice Parade, has all the hallmarks of smart-people music: abstract songwriting, unusual instrumentation, and discernible references to other smart-people music. But none of those things is the disc’s raison d’être. Instead, Pierce seems to want every track to be instantly likable—and not only to people who have the capability to enjoy the Tortoises, Stereolabs, and Dntels of the world. Surprisingly, he succeeds: From the ringing notes and gentle percussion of “Two, Three, Fall,” which features some breathy vocals by Kristin Anna Valtysdottir of Múm, to the ruminative chord changes and live-in-the-studio drumming of “Refrain Tomorrow,” a satisfying accessibility runs throughout Obrigado Suadade. Tones shift and collide, sure, and the riffs never quite resolve with a normal sense of timing, but Pierce’s consistent use of acoustic guitars and Brazilian-style rhythms does a lot to counter the disc’s more cerebral tendencies. The combination is most striking on the bubbling “Focus on a Roller Coaster,” which has a distinct IDM flair but not a trace of the genre’s usual technopomposity. On that track and a few others, Pierce (who has drummed for the Swirlies in his spare time) also hints at some affection for the fuzzy chords and quiet/loud swells of Glider-era My Bloody Valentine. It makes sense: MBV was smart to the core, but its MO was pretty obvious. With a different beat, a warmer attitude, and a similar balance of intelligence and instinct, Mice Parade manages to solve the very same equation. —Joe Warminsky