Torch Music Review

Menomena – “Moms”

Portland trio-turned-duo Menomena may have lost Brent Knopf after the vaunted 2010 album Mines, but remaining members Justin Harris and Danny Seim soldier on, crafting a new album, “Moms,” fans hoped it wouldn’t suffer too badly the loss of a third of the creative team that so astonished them.

This loss was far more worrisome than most defections due to the uniquely democratic  songwriting tactics Menomena uses, namely the turn-based software (Deeler) created by Knopf. Despite this, much of the Menomena sound is maintained on “Moms” as the skill of the two remaining songwriters results in a number of songs ranging from good to fantastic.

“Skintercourse” is a standout track, sneaking up on listeners with a low, sensual twist of throbbing bass and snapping fingers supporting an infectious chorus. It’s busy and intoxicating, a guaranteed repeat listen that enhances the following track—the subtler, more intimate whispering groove “Tantalus”—that much more. Opener “Plumage” is a joyful romp, and there’s a good amount of soul to songs such as “Pique” and “Baton.”

This is where the “but” comes in. There isn’t a single unpleasant song on “Moms.” The album is well put together, sounds great and is quite clever. But there’s a little something missing. While two or three tracks are recognizable as great, the rest blend into a pleasant blur. It’s an eccentric blur, but for those familiar with Menomena, a blur nonetheless. “Moms” is a slicker, more streamlined album, but people don’t listen to Menomena for “slick and streamlined.”

That said, “Moms” must be given its due. Though a little more good than great, an album containing tracks like “Skintercourse” and “One Horse” can hardly be considered failure. It’s reassuring that Menomena can still create well without Knopf, yet still one wonders “what if?”