Release Date: Mar 4, 2014
Record label: Dangerbird Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Noise Pop, Hard Rock
Hard rock usually aims for the gut rather than the upper-level brain functions, which is one reason why one doesn't hear much about the subgenre of "hard rock for smart people. " But that's not to say such things don't exist, and Monuments, the third album from Ume (pronounced "Ooo-May"), sounds very clever indeed, in terms of its music as well as its lyrics, while still generating plenty of fire and sweat. Ume leader Lauren Langner Larson clearly knows how to craft a big slab of riffage, and her guitar work is straightforward but strong, focusing on downstrokes rather than rapid-fire soloing and letting the meaty chords build the foundation while overdubbed secondary lines add texture and detail and keyboards add melodic counterpoints.
While I was a little sorry to see some of the rougher edges of Ume’s debut get sanded down for their sophomore album, Phantoms, in retrospect it was the best move they could have made. Shaking off Urgent Sea’s Sonic Youth worship allowed the band to come fully into its own and blossom into the rock & roll powerhouse it was always meant to be. Balancing crushing riffs with frontwoman Lauren Larsen’s heavenly vocals, Ume managed to create one of 2011’s most endearing hard rock records.
Ume Monuments (Dangerbird) It took Ume nearly a decade and several false starts before the Austin trio finally found form with 2011 sophomore LP Phantoms. Whereas the album refocused their power-heavy riffs and shoegaze distortion, Monuments crushes rock on the outset with the vicious bassline of "Black Stone" breaking into an outright barrage. Producer Adam Kasper (Queens of the Stone Age, Nirvana) captures the uncompromising energy of their live set and ferocity of guitarist and vocalist Lauren Larson, driving in the howling "Embrace" and pummeling relentlessly on "Chase It Down." Yet the album also finds versatility and balance in tracks like "Too Big World," Larson's layered vocals ripped between an aggressive roar and seductive lull.