You can’t categorize the sound of mid-2000 indie-rock music, at least not in the same way that one can conceive of ’60s Motown or early-’80s thrash metal. But Portland’s Menomena come closest to encapsulating that era’s stylistic tendencies. On their 2007 masterwork, Friend and Foe, the band blended Animal Collective’s flair for glitchy arrangements with the infectious poptimism of MGMT and filtered it all through the song deconstruction of Spoon and The Fiery Furnaces.
After a less-than-satisfying follow up (2010’s Mines) and a split with guitarist/singer Brent Knopf, Menomena (now a duo) have delved back into the roots of their sound with renewed enthusiasm. From the opening track, “Plumage,” singer/bassist/saxophonist Justin Harris and drummer/singer Danny Seim toy with expectations of how a pop song should be, layering booming piano/organ accents and occasional bursts of drumming over insistent handclaps and a jaunty vocal line.
The arrangements throughout Moms are similarly unpredictable, as instruments tumble in and out of songs—a quirk that makes up for an occasional lack of memorable tuneage. Still, Harris and Seim are wholly adept at penning hooky melodies and stick-in-your-head lyrics (“Heavy are the branches / hanging from my fucked up family tree” is a highlight, from “Heavy Is as Heavy Does”), which helps Menomena’s sound stand out in these undefinable times.
Playlist picks: “Skintercourse,” “Plumage,” “Heavy Is as Heavy Does”