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Intersection of Life and Faith

Mewithoutyou Spins Tales with Ten Stories

  • Glenn McCarty Contributing Writer
  • 2012 18 Jun
Mewithoutyou Spins Tales with <i>Ten Stories</i>

Artist: Mewithoutyou

Album: Ten Stories

Label: Pine Street

Philadelphia folk rock crew Mewithoutyou may have taken its trademark eccentricity to a record level on Ten Stories, its latest and fifth album. The concept uniting the ten-track album is a fictional crash involving a circus train. Each of the ten songs tells a story imagining the aftermath of the crash. This results in songs about elephants, foxes, bears, and tigers, among other menagerie creatures.

Now, you don't have to really know the concept or crack every lyrical puzzle - and there are some doozies here - to get the album, thankfully. The band's sound is accessible enough that Ten Stories is totally enjoyable on one plane, but even more compelling should listeners take the time to dive deeper.

It's an entertaining hybrid, with the quirkiness of They Might Be Giants and the folk exuberance and literary lyricism of The Decemberists, mixed with traces of the jangle of R.E.M and melancholy of Counting Crows. But there's nothing remotely derivative about Mewithoutyou's sound. They're a band cut from original cloth. Lead singer Aaron Weiss has a vulnerable warble, except when he's delivering in spoken-word form, as he does on occasion.

Opening track "February, 1878," which sets the scene for the album by establishing the context of the crash, leads off with a grinding guitar similar to Arcade Fire's "Wake Up," then moves into the aforementioned spoken word delivery and picks up in intensity. Other highlights are "Elephant in the Dock," a lilting folk gem that bursts into the passionate chorus, "Hang/the elephant must hang." "Aubergine" lilts like Ryan Adams, but played a little less country, and "Fox's Dream of the Log Flume," which - despite the bizarre title - plays around with spoken word on a surprisingly funny lyric about memories. "Nine Stories" has a Sufjan Stevens/Jack Johnson vibe and a steady strum underneath a nifty vocal harmony.

Album closer "All Circles," which features Hayley Williams from Paramore, is deceptively clever, repeating the same phrase ("All circles presuppose they'll end where they begin/but only in their leaving can they ever come back round.") for the entire song. What results is an interesting cap on the collection of seemingly insignificant stories contained in the album, sort of a history-repeats-itself commentary. It also is a perfect invitation to finish the album and dive right back into the beginning again. With its captivating blend of lyrical meat and sonic experimentation, Ten Stories is certainly worth circling back to many times.

*This Review First Published 6/18/2012