MewithoutYou have had an interesting career trajectory. Starting off small, like basically all bands, they rounded the club circuits and made a name for themselves slowly. Their debut album was strong on Christian thematics and high energy, resulting in something wholly unique and spearheaded by Aaron Weiss’ self-aware introspective and metaphorical lyrical bouts of frenzy. When the group released their climax of an album, Brother, Sister in 2006, they toned down the frenetic energy to release what was essentially a Neutral Milk Hotel love letter, heavy on the folk and less on the crazy. That was okay, but just a detour. MewithoutYou bring an alarmingly effective mix of their previous sounds to the table for a collection of songs called “Ten Stories.” Tied together by the story of a carnival train crashing, each song is meant to represent an animal who is lost and confused after the train which carried them to their next predetermined destination is no longer there.
Of course, the religious and sociological undertones aren’t exactly subtle, but Ten Stories offers a fascinating take on a concept album, with beautiful imagery and an album cover that should garner second and third looks.
The group follow slightly in the vein of the folksy direction they took with their 2009 album, It’s all False… but they balance it elegantly with some hardcore elements. Cardiff Giant is pure folk pop, but it’s actually quite better than anything the band released on their last album, and drops in some classic free verse towards the end of the song and it works brilliantly. February 1878 just opens with a melancholy guitar riff and bells that set a consistency and tone that brings the album strong through to its own. For those disenchanted with Weiss more fiolky singing numbers, he uses his free-verse talking voice far more, and it’s about damn time.
One of the strongest suits MewithoutYou as ever worn is their drumming, and it’s exquisitely done here, driving many of the songs to a soft and whimsical conclusion. This is clearly evident in Aubergine, and Jiji Mermaid to a lesser extent. Both these songs drive like a train, and helps round out the conceptual and contextual flow of the album.
Ten Stories is a top-tier release from the group. It takes the group’s greatest elements, including Weiss conceptual and spiritual lyrics, the thematic drumming, and the balance of heavy and light. fans of their oldest material may be alienated as mewithoutYou tease their older hardcore sounds here but never fully embrace it, and that makes for a smarter more balanced release. Everyone sound seems required and purposeful, and the story is intelligent and not derailed by thick incoherence. MewithoutYou take their best and refine it for an album that is focused on delivery but sprawling on scale.
Image Source, MewithoutYou Cover Art, 2012 Ten Stories