Micachu & The Shapes – Never
Rough Trades Records: 2012
Micachu and The Shapes waited for the perfect time to release their sophomore album Never, a follow-up to the to the over-the-pop, experimental album, Jewelry. It’s a time when things are getting weird. The entire First World is about to dine-and-ditch the economy. The weather, in all its rage, is actually an interesting topic of discussion. And, the state of American politics is like something out of the Twilight Zone, in which, mistakes are sent to another dimension–our dimension, only to be repeated for eternity.
But, most importantly, experimental music has once again out lapped itself in the race between avant-garde and popular music. So, with a little help from bands like the tUnE-yArDs and the Dirty Projectors, popular music has caught up with the style that Micachu and the Shapes so perfectly embellished on their 2009 release Jewelry. Never is a strong sophomore album with more consistency and less variety of Jewelry. It’s more accessible to the mainstream, not because Micachu and The Shapes scaled back, but because the mainstream scaled forward.
There’s a specific energy on this album. It’s fed by Mica Levi’s vocals, but she won’t strike you as a vocalist. They just seem to exist like footnotes in a painting, or the tour guide on a bus, as if to inform the tourists, “You know what you’re hearing is beautiful, but here’s a little explanation.” Levi is, after all, a classically trained musician. Composition is what she knows. Vocals are the footnotes.
This album, while still very different, steps a little closer to something familiar. In many ways, like traditional guitar tunings and traditional instrumentation in general, this album sounds more traditional than Jewelry, which seemed to take advantage of any object that when struck, created a consistent pitch. Never just between slow-paced, almost unsettling melodies, to fast-paced tracks more akin to Jewelry’s tracks, “Golden Phone” and “Ship”. You also get playful samples, like the over-the-phone gossip between two women on the track “Glamour”.
All the tracks that standout have high energy, like “Easy”, “OK” and “Low Dogg”. They retain that resourceful, use-everything-that-makes-noise, mentality to get the melody from point A to point B. But, energy aside, “Nothing” was another favorite that mixes dizzying slow melodies with power chords; it’s a great attempt at something classically inspired, like something your grandma would like, if your grandma listed to experimental pop music.
I can’t say I was surprised by this album, like I was by their debut album. It might be that my palate for experimental music has been deadened by what seems to be a mass influx into the many nontraditional production techniques floating around. But for those looking for and introduction into strange, this album will get your there.