Release Date: Jun 16, 2015
Record label: Run for Cover Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
mewithoutYou are one of the most polarizing and opinion-provoking bands I know. I've always dug the vast majority of their works and when it comes to picking one out the bunch, it's 2012's Ten Stories that sits with me the most. It felt like they charted some slightly newer ground but still one worn with very familiar grooves. In terms of musical landscape and comparison to the other full-lengths in their catalog, Pale Horses manages to trump its predecessor and run ahead of the pack.
Review Summary: Songs of slow decline? No, not quite yet.mewithoutYou recorded Pale Horses about ten minutes away from my old Philadelphia apartment. It’s still odd to see Studio 4 in Conshohocken listed in the album sleeve, and even weirder to hear the band name-check suburban towns like Coatesville in the lyrics. They’ve always been a group synonymous with home for me, possessing both geographical and emotional proximity.
On their latest release, Pale Horses, Philadelphia natives mewithoutYou have compiled a collection of songs that highlight and showcase all of the sounds they've experimented with on previous releases, creating a varied and dynamic piece. Ranging from moments of gritty, driving post-hardcore found on "Red Cow" to delicate, twinkling breaks in "Birnam Wood," mewithoutYou utilize stylistic shifts, often mid-song, to keep listeners on their toes from start to finish. Aaron Weiss' signature vocal style and lyricism are what gives this album momentum in many places, often transitioning between spoken-word style verses and emphatic, subtly harmonized clean vocals.
For an explicitly Christian record label, Tooth & Nail was home to several ambiguously religious post-hardcore bands. Underoath and Anberlin often framed their devotionals in the more general language of emotional or physical apocalypse. Philadelphia five-piece mewithoutYou were signed to Tooth & Nail in the mid-2000s, but their spiritual qualities are introspective and intersectional; lyricist Aaron Weiss draws together Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions, forming an intricate, collagist cosmology through which he relates to God.
Bands rooted in lyricism get accused of treason when they shift their sound, and mewithoutYou never gets a break. Since forming in 2000, the Philadelphia five-piece has roved from post-hardcore to art rock to poppy indie rock, catching fans off guard with a change that feels like a one-time occurrence until it happens again. No one ever abandons the band, though.
Everything’s come around full circle on Pale Horses, the sixth full-length from Philly’s beloved mewithoutYou. Since their folk fascinations on 2009’s It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All A Dream! It’s Alright, the band have built their way back towards their heavier origins. That’s not to say Pale Horses strictly returns to those post-hardcore / groove origins; rather, they’ve blended Ten Stories’ learnings with Brother, Sister’s intensity to create a dense album (perfectly produced by Will Yip) that’ll please fans of every mwY iteration.
Fifteen years since their advent, Philadelphia’s revered mewithoutYou have returned with their sixth studio-album, Pale Horses. Different in texture to 2012’s Ten Stories - due in part to the production of Will Yip (Circa Survive, Title Fight) - the record catalogues personal torment and as such is incredibly heartfelt, but does at times border on overly sombre, lacking perhaps some of the diversity of the last release. The album’s artwork by Russian painter Vasily Kafanov is interestingly reminiscent of Richard Hamilton’s illustrations of James Joyce’s modernist Magnus Opus Ulysses.