Yes, yes, I know. So we’re a little bit late to the party. So sorry, won’t happen again. But after the announcement of their upcoming tour with Said the Whale, I just realized Evolution never did a proper full on review of their latest album, “Dance and Cry.”
So before we get into “Dance and Cry,” let’s rewind a bit to their previous album, 2017’s “No Culture.” With that album, it showed more pop-dance elements to their sound with an emphasis on heavy production, with other genres sprinkled in including a sense of classic rock (“Free”), country folk (“Family”), and dare I say elements of alternative R&B (“Mouth of the Devil”). It wasn’t necessarily the Mother Mother sound I was used to. They did keep their quirks and energy, but I think for me personally, I was missing some of that obscure musical dissonances and crunch that I was used too. That’s not to say this was a bad album – the tempo shift in “Baby Boy” is one of my favourite things the band has done. It was just frankly a different album. One for me that didn’t have a clear direction.
Now we get to “Dance and Cry,” where the band once again switches musically, but presenting a more balanced approach of the atmosphere of “No Culture.” It’s has a much more intimate and gentle style that I think helps bring out the stories Ryan Guldemond wanted to tell. I think it actually mirrors artistic life with real life – Guldemond went through a break up and was essentially the source of this entire album.
Earlier during promotion of the album, Guldemond talked about the writing process saying:
“[The songs were] written from a place of wanting to be moved, and wanting to move others. At a certain point of the writing process I made a pact with myself that I wouldn’t pursue songs that didn’t either make me want to dance or cry, or ideally both. This ethos catalyzed a broader theme with regards to healing, and how feeling one’s pain and becoming truly intimate, loving and curious with it, is a crucial part of finding your way out of it.”
You have songs like their lead single “Get Up” and “It’s Alright” that capitalize on the dance elements he was referring to, instantly creating infectious grooves that – at the very least – make you wanna tap your foot. As well as personally, I hear how these more dance-inspired tracks have taken what they’ve learned in “No Culture,”and improved upon them.
But on the opposite side of Guldemond’s creative process, you have songs that tug at those heart strings. Mother Mother uses that opportunity with “I Must Cry Out Loud.” There is this sense of sound painting of sorrow coming from it – the adding texture of instrumentation and dynamics, the decision to use a more airy sound in the vocals, the brief but noticeable use of minor in an overall major sounding key, and how the main and background vocal lines through the chorus creates a crying sound. Or the raw, haunting, and purposely imperfect sound production of “Biting on a Rose.” It’s short at just over 90 seconds, but it’s perhaps the most impactful 90 seconds of the album.
Perhaps, the album-titled track “Dance and Cry” is the perfect blend of those two emotional responses. A song that will make you want to dance and cry at the same time. Musically it’s written and produced in an upbeat manner – catchy melody, infections lyrics, . Lyrically, it’s a much more personal and emotional story that really paints a dark picture.
“Here in the valley of darkness again / I’m alone and afraid, and I’m pale and I’m thin / But I open my arms and I dance with the wind / To the beat of my heart / To the drum of my suffering / Yeah, sometimes the pain is like a rock and roll band / And you gotta / Dance”
Now I should mention that through first listen, I didn’t cry. But that’s not because of the lack of emotion in the songs, it was because I was born without emotions. My point though is that Mother Mother has done the best job in respects to songwriting and storytelling. Now I would say though that if you were hoping for an album that had a bit more of Mother Mother’s signature sounding quirks like “Monkey Tree,” “Bit by Bit” or “Hayloft,” then you might be left a bit disappointed. But if you are a fan of songs with emotional substance, then you should be able to put this album easily in your Top 10 of 2018.