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Meomena: Moms (Barsuk) 

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Portland, Ore.'s Menomena is a modern group yet to release a truly forgettable or misdirected album—more than can be said for most of their peers.

Given the rather acrimonious departure of Brent Knopf, one might think Justin Harris and Danny Seim would have had to reinvent their sound. Instead, the duo gives us Moms, a bold, generous success.

Despite the gravitas imbued upon an album whose lyrical bent is darkly reflective, dedicated to mothers both dead and overburdened, Moms retains Menomena's sometimes-playful, sometimes-dumb sensibilities. Yes, there is a song named "Skintercourse," but that is inconsequential compared to the beguiling song's nervous pop. Elsewhere, dramatic incantations of "glory hole" cannot derail the gloriously fuzzy waltz of "Capsule."

Bookended by perhaps the band's most-enthralling tunes, Moms succeeds due to its ability to eschew safety for ambition. "Plumage" begins the album with bouncing rhythms and thrashing muscle; it's a crowd-pleasing barnburner assured enough for a funky sax solo and levity. Meanwhile, closer "One Horse" is a 10-minute transformer that expertly develops from piano-led balladry to marching space psychedelia.

Ultimately, Moms is less defined by one-liners or grand experimentation than by smartly executed, willfully fractious art-rock. "Pique" presents a mesmeric, trembling dark pop tune, while "Baton" skillfully executes a gutsy rock tune composed primarily around Seim's gutting pleas ("I wish I could construct a better song for you, my dear").

Dark and funny, Moms slyly retains the essence of Menomena without forfeitures.

More by Michael Petitti

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