When: Wed., Oct. 28, 8 p.m. 2009
Since their beginnings in the late 90s, Iceland's MUM have spun a beguiling web of electronic textures, programmed beats, and idiosyncratic acoustic instrumenation—strings, horns, piano, ukulele, vibes, dulcimer, even an Estonian choir. But on both 2007's Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy and the new Sing Along to Songs You Don't Know (Morr Music) the group has abandoned the convoluted density and wandering, ethereal feel of its early material. The songs are still gentle and playful, but now they're also sharp and lucid, with a prominent pop backbone—and unfortunately this tends to disrupt the spell cast by the fanciful arrangements. I still enjoy Mum's instrumental ideas, but the singing jumps out in an almost theatrical way, allowing the cloying lyrics ("If I were a bumblebee / And you were a puddle / Would I drown in you anyway / In your soggy eyeball") to repeatedly burst the music's bubble.
Fellow Icelander Sindri Mar Sigfusson, a founding member of indie-folk combo Seabear, sounds just as quirky as Mum on his solo debut as SIN FANG BOUS, Clangour (Morr Music). His dense arrangements and catchy melodies have a mysteriousness that Mum's songs have lost, though, and a manic energy they never had. He played everything on the album himself, overdubbing hyperactive percussion, crisply strummed guitar, and a constantly shifting landscape of piano, electronics, vocal harmonies, and more. The riot of colors and countermelodies sometimes suggests Animal Collective's brand of mellow mayhem, and the whole disc bubbles with the giddiness of discovery—it's as though, unable to choose between clean pop hooks and messy sonic play, Sigfusson decided to throw them all in the pot together and see what he could fish out.—Peter Margasak
Price: $18, $15 in advance