Mew: And the Glass-Handed Kites (Sony BMG Music)

They might label this stuff "cosmic dream pop," "fairyland neo-prog," or whatever, but to me it's a great reminder of what I grew up loving about ambitious rock music.

 


Dear Mew:

Thank you for this terrific record! I've been keeping a list of albums that preserve the old-school concept of a full-length as something to lose yourself in, something you want to hear from start to finish rather than merely transferring a few key tracks to your iPod and then burying the disc in the "never to be played again" pile like the young 'uns do so often today. But you, my dear Mew-sicians, with And the Glass-Handed Kites, have made it onto my list.

This is one challenging, absorbing piece of work. What made you decide to run tracks 1 through 12 together with no break between, like it's one long prog-rock epic or something? That took some major artistic cojones, but you pulled it off! It helps that vocalist Jonas Bjerre has such a sweetly melodic voice, and that when he ascends to those high notes, there's an angelic sort of grace that hitmakers like Coldplay can only strive for. When the vocal first enters on "Cinaberry Tree," it's just beautiful. The buoyant prog/pop of "Why Are You Looking Grave," the almost Yes-like blend of textures on "Apocalypso"-the music seems to gain this airy purity because of that voice, to which you guys also add the most pleasing background harmonies.

And Bo Madsen-what a stellar guitarist! I can't remember the last time I heard a guy achieve such a potent balance between power chord heaviness and indie-rock jangle. "Special" (an apt title for this sonic gem!) and "A Dark Design" kinda illustrate this-they're exceptionally fine songs where the arrangements keep surprising, and the guitars, ace rhythm section and voice circle each other doing this beautiful, synchronized dance that's really stunning, man. What was your modus operandi for these sessions, anyway? Sure doesn't sound like the traditional songwriting approach where you're thinking about a girl, you sit down with pen and paper to scribble some lyrics to go with your three chords, then you call up the band and say, "Hey guys, help me flesh this out…" No, something different's going on here. And it's not like prog-rock is so prevalent in Denmark these days, either. This is simply a wonderfully fresh sound that, while reminiscent of the '70s, can't be accused of being derivative.

Those last two tracks-"White Lips Kissed" and "Louise Louisa"-are just stunners. I love the pretty but matter-of-fact way Bjerre sings the lyric "What a day I've had/Now it's over, isn't it?" Not to mention the sweet refrain of "Are you/My lady, are you?" in "The Zookeeper's Boy," which sure oughta make the girls swoon. They might label this stuff "cosmic dream pop," "fairyland neo-prog," or whatever, but to me it's a great reminder of what I grew up loving about ambitious rock music. It's a real album, thoroughly engrossing from start to finish. Thanks, Mew. You've delivered a stunner, and I'm gonna tell all my friends about it.

Sincerely yours, Kevin

RIYL: Porcupine Tree, Flaming Lips, the best of ‘70s prog-sters like Yes and Genesis

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