After seeing Mammút play live in Portland, ME of all places I was hooked by the end of the first song and by the end of the set desperate to possess their music. River’s End was released in 2015 by Bella Union Records and the 5-song EP is a sampling of tracks from a few of their previous Icelandic albums that were re-recorded in English, so it’s a pretty good place to start for the small number of people not fluent in Icelandic.
The songs are delicately layered and muscular even in their calmest moments with lyrics that evoke emotional landscapes as stark and captivating as the band’s homeland. There is something otherworldly and sensual about the songs like they were written by Molly-dosed absinthe fairies listening to early Sugarcubes albums. My two favorite tracks are “Blood Burst” and “Bakkus” both are rousing and wonderfully chaotic in their energy. Meanwhile “Shore”, “River’s End”, and “Salt” all ease off the gas to varying degrees but are no less potent and at times even more entrancing.
The kneejerk comparison for people of my generation is of course The Sugarcubes, but Mammút while having similarly great pop sensibilities also have a darker, heavier edge. I keep imagining Lush, Curve, and The Breeders all tossed into a blender when I listen to River’s End. And yes I know those are two decade old references, but whatever. Nevermind.
Mammút’s next full length album Kinder Versions is due out July 14, 2017 and will be all original tunes in English so if you like River’s End mark your calendars for that.
Purchase through Bella Union, Bandcamp, and iTunes.
The video for “Blood Burst” may or may not be safe for work depending on your workplace’s policy on Icelanders writhing in kiddie pools.
This song always takes me back to the summer my family drove all the way from the Dirty Jerz to Disney World. My sister and I sat in the backseat running through a repeated cycle of annoying each other then ignoring each other then playing Boggle then playing the license plate game and then napping. My dad swapped between playing cassettes and surfing through the radio as he drove. It felt like “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” was always playing on some station and I truly never got tired of hearing it. This song will always make me think of the summers of childhood that seemed so much longer than three months. It holds the pleasantly distorted memories of not just summer, but cinematic summer where everything is moving at half speed drenched in golden hour sunlight. My family is all laughing and smiling and the world is amazing because holyfuckingshit we’re going to Disney World! This distinct vision that I retain decades later is due in no small part to the fact that this song plays at the very end of the movie Real Genius over the infamous popcorn scene which has both slo-mo cavorting and golden hour lighting. Mind you Real Genius is a touchstone film of my childhood for several reasons including but not limited to letting me know there was hope for bespectacled dorks like myself to be cool, establishing Val Kilmer as an inspiration of aforementioned coolness, and setting into motion my lifelong proclivity for nerdy, dark haired, socially awkward girls.
So yeah, if you could distill all the joy and hope of 10 year old me down to 4 minutes and 11 seconds this song is it.
The official video:
“The Last Time” isn’t a dancefloor stomper by any means with its tight, chill groove, but you can really lean into it and move without a second thought. It straight up makes me do the white man overbite and shake muh ass! CeeLo begs me to take stock of my life and ask the truly deep question: “When, exactly, was the last time I danced?” The answer is probably the last time I was making Friday night pizza with my second 7&7 in hand and my iPod shuffling out some similarly diggable beats. If you burned out on “Crazy” way back when, do yourself a favor and give this deep cut a listen.
I’ve got a playlist on my iPod named “Feelin’ Good” that I turn to when I need a little pep in my step or when I’m already hopped up and want it to keep going. Every Friday I’ll be posting a song from that playlist to help get the weekend started. This inaugural Feelin’ Good Friday post is in honor of recent world events.
The staccato drum roll that kicks off “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” is one of those sonic signatures that was burned into my brain and allows me to confidently identify this song within half a second of hearing it. Peter Buck’s loose-limbed guitar jangle and Mike Mills’ bopping bass has been putting a smile on my face for 3 decades. The inscrutable yet catchy lyrics sung by Michael Stipe with focused abandon are icing on this spastic cake. Really, it just feels good to pogo around the room with this blasting and yell, “Leonard Bernstein!” If this song is any indication, I for one welcome the End Times with open arms. #IFeelFine
Body Exit Mind is one of my top 10 albums in general, but it’s also one of only a handful of albums that when I listen to it I prefer to listen to it as an actual album: sequentially and in its entirety. Body Exit Mind is in turns contemplative, energetic, hopeful, and nihilistic. It is a 57 minute, 15 song meditation on consumerism, the global spread of American corporatism, and the emotional detachment that dogs modern life circa 1992.
That all sounds pretty fucking heavy for some second wave ‘Madchester’ Britpop, but this is not a collection of ham-fisted screeds. No, it feels like a late night, mid-twenties conversation where everyone is a little drunk and a little high and every word means something, man. These songs are heavy with the fruit of knowledge. Of course, there are no answers. There never are in pop music, but we always think there might be, don’t we? So we hit repeat and keep listening.
Two decades on I keep listening to Body Exit Mind because I know someday I will find answers buried in here. Until then, at the very least, it never fails to put me in a better, slightly less pessimistic mood. For me part of the emotional lift garnered by Body Exit Mind is down to the lush production. It manages to not sound overproduced or too slick. It’s a sonic cocoon that wraps around your head waiting for your mind to transform.
The third track “Stockholm” best encompasses the feel of Body Exit Mind. The song alternates between quasi-spoken verses and soaring vocal choruses. Its lyrics randomly drift into my head more than any other on the album. “You’ll soon be dust, your deeds already are/You saw no orb no fiery bushes either/I must be drunk I feel unsteady, ah ha/No monster me, sadly, no saint either.” [See what I mean about inscrutable truth?] Give “Stockholm” a quick listen and you will be a convert.
Addendum: Wherein I wax Matt Pinfield-esque even more so about the album… Read More
The single “Trees” from Greek electro group Glass Rebel is a slice of dreamy electro pop that is perfect for summertime mixes. “Trees” is awash in delicate 80’s synth cascades sprinkled with the breathy vocals of guest duo Marsheaux. I’ve always been a sucker for diaphanous female vocals over head-nodding beats and as soon as I heard this song my mind drifted to daydreams of golden-rayed relaxation and warm nights aglow with fireflies. I highly recommend picking up “Trees” and dropping it into your summer playlist.
Vinyl fetishists take note: this is available as a 7″ with a glossy die-cut cover. The B-side “Suntan” is an instrumental that wouldn’t be out of place playing at the end of a movie as the camera zooms out from a laughing couple in a convertible and credits roll over a sunset dissolve.
Bandcamp [Buy the vinyl here!] iTunes
Great Big Meaningless, a repackaging of Helicopter Helicopter’s first two albums –Squids and Other Fishes (1998) and Analog & Electrical Fields (1999), is 60 minutes of woozy rock’n’roll bliss. It’s rare enough to find an entire album that is good from beginning to end, but getting two for the price of one fills you with that warm fuzzy feeling that usually results from two or three tall boys.
Helicopter Helicopter’s songs are built on the steady heartbeat of drums and pulsing bass lines that carry the listener through a trippy tumult. Guitars pinball from undulating drones to jagged attacks to poppy chord strumming and back again. Lead singers Christopher Zerby and Julie Chadwick make great use of the guy/girl vocal dichotomy by harmonizing choruses, dueling on verses, and creating chaos singing lines over top one another. At points everything converges into a sludgy whirlpool, but then surfaces out the other side with razor sharp clarity; a single drum snap or the ringing slice of a guitar brings things back to order. The lyrical scenes are complementary to the music’s sense warping tendencies. It’s a dark and seedy world of drugs, booze, sex, insects, sea life, street life, and violence. The bizarre yet somehow familiar scenes are like something out of a William S. Burroughs novel. The band makes you feel like both their confessor and co-conspirator as you stumble around their world disoriented, but enjoying the ride.
Don’t miss tracks:
Great Big Meaningless
Please Please Tito
Ever Since The Buzzards Moaned
(Author’s note: The original version of this review ran in The Northeast Performer back in 2002 or 2003. They don’t archive their reviews online so I took the liberty of reclaiming my own work from an old hard drive and giving it an overhaul because I really dig this album.)
Checkout my vintage review of Helicopter Helicopter’s album Wild Dogs with X-Ray Eyes in the Boston Phoenix because somehow the Phoenix website is still live even though they’re not.