In three long years, mewithoutYou emancipated themselves from a detachment – where personal issues rotted thoughts and transformed into obstacles – and slowly dug into the pure definition of imagination. Though the Philadelphia instrumentalists have always been able to tap into the deep end of creativity, their latest self-release tale, Ten Stories, trades folk for an electric session that entwines their cohesive nature, half-spoken cries and intricate liking for detail. As a whole, the record is a record. It explores the beautiful damage four musicians can do, from the distortion-heavy wail of “February, 1878” to the frantic bloom of “All Circles”, but it also shapes a story. The colour added to the vague tale of a circus train crash in the 1800s’ caused by an elephant uprising to help fellow animals is essentially the spine of Ten Stories, and though vocalist Aaron Weiss has always been able to turn his works into art, he turns this particular one into film. As the record plays on, the mood undresses into different emotions – the gritty undertone to “Grist For Malady Mill” treads into the subtle acoustic tear of “East Enders Wives” where when Weiss professes, “I’m still counting on you like an invisible rosary”, you believe him.
It’s his narrative that leads you through mewithoutYou’s bouncy folk rides (“Cardiff Giant”) and visual lullabies (“Aubergine”) and then leaves you alone with the intensity that hits the floor beneath you during the album’s second half. The group’s aggression has always been a connection listeners embrace, and here it’s exhilarating. The echoing self-destruction near the end of “Fiji Mermaid” and the jagged sharpness of the guitars and horns in “Bear’s Vision Of St. Agnes” intrepidly accent “Fox’s Dream Of The Log Flume” and its emotional level. Here Weiss’ illustrations meet a foreign touch, added by the guest vocals of Paramore’s Hayley Williams. Her timid but magnetic voice emphasizes the song’s hostility and gracefully adds a period to the lyrical drawings of a bear admitting its fantasy for pushing kids off carnival rides. This fiction backed by mewithoutYou’s ability to paint through alternative sound is why they are a prominent inspiration. It may not be for everyone, but Ten Stories is a progressive release that’s hard to trace, imitate or even ignore without feeling lust for it’s incomparable arrangement.
Download: “Fiji Mermaid”, “Fox’s Dream Of The Log Flume”, “East Enders Wives”