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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
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No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Friend and Foe

Rating: 9/10 ?

January 24, 2007
Creatively, Menomena have crossed over the borders of all previous releases on this, their debut album for the Barsuk label and third as a band. Both musically and lyrically, each of the songs found here are their own little journey; pretty little steps that collectively take you - the listener - to places you've only dreamed of. That is, if you dream of offbeat rhythms and tinker-toy sound effects being played over haunting keyboard tones and strained lyrics (not in the bad way).

While they are not afraid to bang the drums and rock out, Menomena keep the majority of this album behind a beautiful mask of complimentary melodies. One by one they add a different spice with every eight notes. Upon first listen, album opener "Muscle 'N Flo" forces attention to the drums, which lead out of the gates. Soon enough all you have is an organ swell as a backbone, with some soft piano tinkling for vertebra. It eventually leads to some strange trumpet sounds and a twangy guitar. This song alone is a four-minute trip to weirdsville, but never is it awkward. It's the kind of trip you appreciate more and more every time you think about it. "If Jesus could only wash my feet / I'd get up strong and muscle on" - Of course you would, and this would be your soundtrack.

The same thing can be said for the album as a whole. It's hushed moments are filled with strange horns and dark pianos that lurk around every corner, complimenting all the fun pop structure the band plays with in each of the twelve tracks.

"Weird" (the fifth track) is three minutes of some of the most unique indie pop you'll hear this year. Complete with a breathy-beatbox beat (over an actual drumbeat) and computer-sampled saxophone, this darker pop tune is catchy and fun. Not just weird for the sake of it, but unique for a different kind of band.

After listening to the album three times in a row, something struck me. The thing that keeps this album moving and makes every song so enjoyable is the combination of drums and keys. While the spices of crazy instruments (everything from jinglebells to the aforementioned saxophone) heighten the listening experience of every song, it's the up-tempo drumbeats or the dark piano noodleing (or in some cases, both) that jump up and keep the album in motion. Even at its most hushed, this album has a constant, speedy momentum.

"Running," the shortest song in the collection, is strictly percussion and piano and at just under two minutes it's a perfect walkway down the path of quirky pop perfection that is Friend and Foe.

I can't write a review without mentioning the amazing artwork/design that completes Menomena's whole package approach. Craig Thompson (author of the indie novel Blankets and a great artist) put together some of the craziest, yet most perfect artwork for the layout. Complete with lyrics and titles all over the place. It's something you have to see to really appreciate.

The three fellas who make up Menomena (Danny Seim, Justin Harris, and Brent Knopf) all live in and around Portland, and are Oregon's innovators of all things creative. After their first album, I Am The Fun Blame Monster, the guys took a quick left turn to create an instrumental soundtrack to a staged-dance/performance art piece called Under An Hour. Now, with their third effort, I'm certain they'll make far more Friends than Foes.

Reviewed by Bob Ladewig
Having been introduced to good music by his sister in the early years, Bob Ladewig has been searching out all the best in indie music ever since. He also rides a skateboard and performs/directs comedy shows and, like all great men, he\'s afraid of really growing up.

See other reviews by Bob Ladewig



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