Review Summary: With no worldly backdrop to hide behind, this is Aaron Weiss and mewithoutYou laid bare musically, lyrically, mentally.
We live in uncertain times; it seems that all over the world, humans are making stupid decisions, bringing us closer to the edge of the next apocalypse, whether that be economic, nuclear, dystopian. It is the hot topic for creatives everywhere in seemingly every facet of their respective fields. Sometimes we need a break from that.
So it’s fortunate that in the mewithoutYou parallel universe, their previous album held the apocalypse. The last lines of ‘Rainbow Signs’ hinted at a personal narrative underneath the grander story, one weaved seamlessly as water amongst rocks throughout Pale Horses
. And when the overriding narrative of technology and the literal end of the world is torn away by H-bombs, vaporised along with the majority of humanity, and the message-less birds have taken flight without cause, the only thing left is your own mind, your own thoughts. [Untitled]
doesn’t even have a title, because there is no need for it in such an environment. And amongst the dead, shattered trees, a much more personal apocalypse is occurring for Aaron Weiss.
This uncertainty and this volatility he is purportedly relaying to us throughout this and its accompanying (also untitled) E.P. has lead us to the most visceral, stream-of-consciousness (yet, paradoxically, meticulously planned) album mwY have made. The seemingly bipolar jumps from shattering, violent screams (‘9:27a.m., 7/29’, ‘Wendy & Betsy’) and heavy post-hardcore to light and melodic (‘2,459 Miles’) knocks listeners off balance as a violent sidewind would a cyclist. It is impossible to orient yourself perfectly before circumstances change and leave you one, two, three steps behind again.
For example, the strange arrangement of the first three songs (heavy to light to heavy) seems off – why not have the lighter one at the beginning, as an introduction" I spent a long time wondering about this, as it certainly doesn’t seem comfortable any other way. My conclusion: Weiss made them that way on purpose, of course. It comes together as erratic because that is how it was intended. This, along with the subject matter of the respective songs introduces the album perfectly as exactly what it is: stream-of-consciousness but precise, hurtling around bends only to slow at straights as Weiss relays his anxiety and fears about his marriage, his mind, his life in general. The sudden drop to the melodic middle after ‘Another Head for Hydra’ is unexpected and brings a new dimension to the album; ‘[dormouse sighs]’ is a fairy tale of animals and places and seemingly miscellaneous items talking to each other. ‘Flee, Thou Matadors’ has a grandiose guitar solo at the end, one which seems both necessary and almost at odds with the rest of the track, ‘Tortoises’ has a three-step structure from light to fairly heavy, forever climbing, matching the subject matter perfectly (one of infinite regress).
All of that, and I haven’t even considered the impenetrably cryptic, dance-around-the-subject lyrics, in which Aaron (more than usual) uses metaphor, subtext, references to anything from biblical to pop culture (‘New Wine, New Skins’). In places (‘Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore’) the lyrics mean nothing, and are purely just imagery, used as an instrument like any other to build an atmosphere. This technique, the use of Negro spiritual songs, and heart-wrenching personal lines ‘Michael, won’t you row that boat ashore"/Your little brother can’t paddle anymore.’
create a vivid scene; Aaron feels helpless, shackled to his mind that seems to be going wrong, and all he can hope is that his big brother can get him to shore safely.
As with every one of their albums, mewithoutYou have diverged sharply from their previous records. However, this time the music seems to be much more of an amalgam of its predecessors and instead the thematic and lyrical parts have changed; the concept of [Untitled]
is that it doesn’t have
an overarching story, instead much more about thoughts and feelings told as stories. Just look at ‘Wendy & Betsy’: a metaphorical conversation between two conspiring cats, breaking down as Weiss can no longer keep up with beating around the bush ‘All joking aside/Five fingers wide’
. As I said at the beginning; with no worldly backdrop, this is Weiss and mewithoutYou laid bare as they can only convey exactly what is happening in one moment. Every song is another metaphor and portrayal of some facet mental instability and anxiety. However, it is not completely hopeless, as ‘Break on Through’ ends with a brief glimpse of hesitant optimism through the clouds as Aaron gently sings: ‘Someday, I’ll find me’.