Review Summary: Pop hooks and guitar noodling! Done better, this time.
For those of us who've been on Sputnikmusic for half a decade or so, the name Tera Melos brings back fond memories of a different era of this community; in the years past this band's self-titled, the site was heavily geared towards emo, math, and hardcore scenes, predominantly by the influence of staffers such as Greer and Dillon. Tera Melos were math rock royalty, oft recommended and highly praised. I mention this to suggest that X'ed Out
feels like an anomaly - the audience that would've hotly anticipated its technicality back in '07 is now barely visible on this site. But let’s not digress in nostalgia: the Tera Melos of 2013 is as attention-grabbing as ever, thrust back into the spotlight with what could be the band's most cohesive statement yet.
sees Tera Melos tightening up their fusion of math rock and pop with thoughtful songwriting and implementation. It reveals Patagonian Rats
as a transitional work in their discography: that album introduced vocal hooks to their highly technical sound, yet was blatantly inconsistent, the singing at times engaging but usually frustrating the listener. Despite potential, the execution was ultimately head-scratching, brilliant ideas lost to haphazard ambition. X'ed Out
rectifies these issues with taut song composition: take lead single "Sunburn," do do dos
gliding over fluid guitar leads in the verses, offering a natural retreat after the major-key choruses. Elsewhere, "Tropic Lame" ingrains breezy surf rock with active guitar patterns, adding buoyancy to an otherwise straightforward exploration of 60s surf. In committing to their pop inclinations, Tera Melos avoid a scatterbrained end product; relegating the "math" in their songwriting to structural support rather than focal point was a gold decision, one that's paid off immensely. Thus, by thoughtful revision and clear self-assurance, X'ed Out
hits notably more than it misses.
The psychology of X'ed Out
cannot go without mention: in chasing pop euphoria with hyperactive arrangements, strains of fatigue and anxiety serve as a harsh reminder of reality. Just look at that album cover, a palm held to a pained forehead, yearning for relief from the colorful squiggles, shapes, thoughts of an overwhelmed mind. Various tracks play with this concept: "Until Lufthansa" bursts out with all its energy - restless guitar patterns, uplifted singing, a mind-bending rhythm section – but becomes acutely aware of its exhaustion come the bridge, hollowed-out vocals yearning for resignation amid overstimulated guitars that just won't quit, the body fighting against the reason of a mind that's come down-to-earth. In the album's midsection, "Melody Nine" locks into an offbeat groove as anxious whispers drift about, only finding relief in the wordless dejection of a heavy, guitar-fronted chorus. "Bite" is straight-up hungover, thick basslines in disagreement with spirited choruses, slumping shoulders back to stagnating verses. There is outsized desire in this music, yet that comes with nagging truths: that our bodies have physical limitations, unable to keep up with desire for instant gratification; that the rush of stimulants inevitably ends with an unforgiving crash. So "X'ed Out and Tired” closes the album in sobering reflection, thoughts of regret ("something that I didn't mean to swallow… maybe next time I'll try to be more careful
") drained out for the conclusiveness of "maybe I just need to go to sleep.
" Tera Melos look beneath their elated sound for genuine strains, not shying away from the gloom of the expected hangover. That these ideas are thoughtfully integrated into a centaur of math and pop has amounted to one of the most impressive albums of the year. Could X'ed Out
be the release that restores Tera Melos back to the status of household name on this site? I have some faith, Sputnik. Let's see where it goes.