Review Summary: *✧living room pop✧*
Mini Trees' Lexi Vega has always embraced uncertainty in her music. On her very first release — 2018's gorgeous, understated 'Take It Back' — she sang, over washed-out guitars, and with a paradoxical clarity, about a loss of faith. Here, now, in 2021, with this marvel of an album, she asks way more questions than she could ever possibly hope to answer. On opener 'Moments in Between', the question itself is uncertain: 'How long are all the moments in between it?' What is it
? And faith in what
? Something grand and religious, I'm willing to posit. And indeed, there is, across Vega's so-far brief catalogue — what is now: a coupla loosies; two equally immediate, equally well-formed EPs; and a debut album — something vaguely religious, but decidedly spiritual going on.
? and spiritual in what way
?’ are whole other questions left to remain unanswered. What’s clear, though, somewhat ironically, is the cogency, and the lucidity with which Vega conveys these uncertainties in her music. The music itself might be best characterised as ‘indie rock’ – or, as Vega describes it *✧living room pop✧*, emphasis on the *✧✧*. – *✧Napping-in-the-living-room pop.✧* – *✧Wading-through-familiar-dream(s) pop.✧* – Regardless, there is an indie pop rock purity that manifests in straightforward song structures made captivating by Vega’s knack for fragmented narratives, and a tightness of production on Jon Joseph’s part. Together, Joseph (of All Things Blue) and Vega craft songs that feel steady-handed, each flowing naturally one into the next, but free enough that scattered throughout are a number of interesting, and ear-catching sounds and textures.
By which I mean, there is a sound here. Mini Trees has a sound. But it’s not one that feels restricting. On ‘Youth’, for instance, Vega trips and lags behind simple acoustic strums that repeat themselves throughout the song. In the sonic distance, a soft, high-pitched vocal floats in and out of the mix, growing louder, gradually, alongside cymbal crashes, synth whirs, and what sound like the breaths of woodwind. Their ascent is, at least initially, forestalled by a narrator who tries and fails to prevent the song from reaching its sad, sobering end. Only to hit harder in the song’s climax than it would otherwise have, and culminating in something that just about teeters on a loss of control, before ultimately, prematurely, being swept to shore, breathless but, unfortunately, breathing.
Which circles back to the question, how long are all the moments in between what
? My brain, in a panic, is sure of at least one answer: Between now and the end. Between waking and dreaming. Between pre- and post- fit of uncontrolled, uncontrollable nervousness. The answer, of course, is this: The moments are endless. Full of endless fits of agony, and an endless slurry of questions, most of which take the one simple form, 'When will it end?'
I am reminded of Mitski's fabulous Be the Cowboy
, which held its frantic pace to its last – its own tragic, but ultimately sobering 'Two Slow Dancers'. (There are, indeed, stretches of this album which, like Mitski’s, feel tirelessly, tiringly propulsive – everything preceding ‘Cracks in the Pavement’ and the abovementioned ‘Youth’, for instance; then, to a lesser extent, the three-song stretch right before natural closer ‘Otherwise’.) But whereas that album climaxed on its opener, and spent the rest of the album avoiding, and thus deepening its inevitable comedown, Always in Motion
feels, at all times, equal parts frenetic and detached. As though watching rather than experiencing the ceaselessness of the motion – as though experiencing life and its patterns as memories filtered through dream filtered through song.
What’s left is that song, and the real answer to the question posed in the opener, which is yet another question. Something approximating, ‘Who knows?’ Whose follow-up is, ‘it’ doesn’t matter. Ultimately, what matters are the moments in between the moments of panic and desperation: the moments embodied by songs like ‘Doomsday’ which, despite its title, and despite its doomer attitude, is fun as fuck. As is Always in Motion
, which is *✧living room pop✧* because you can dance to it: alone, maybe, in your living room, till the world opens up. But between the bounciness of Vega’s guitars, her drummer’s penchant for moreish grooves, and Joseph’s balanced, intoxicating production – you will
dance. And at that point, Always in Motion
starts to feel less like a compulsion than a reminder that this too shall pass.