mewithoutYou

Pale Horses

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AllMusic Review by

The sixth studio long-player from the mercurial, faith-based, Philly-bred indie rockers, Pale Horses finds mewithoutYou presenting a sort of amalgam of all of their previous sonic guises, with an emphasis on returning to the heavy, post-hardcore sound of early works like [A --> B] Life and Catch for Us the Foxes. Aaron Weiss' elliptical and often impenetrable lyrics (think Grimm's Fairy Tales as told by C.S. Lewis) are as dizzying as ever, spilling over with grim verisimilitude, childlike wonder, and heavy Christian imagery (in the very first song alone he manages to work in references to hatchet-wielding temperance movement radical Carrie Nation, obscuro Idaho outsider art museum Cleo's Ferry, mystic Jewish soap maker Emanuel H. Bronner, and popular Amish family card game Dutch Blitz). The band keeps pace, peppering each syllabic torrent with the appropriate amounts of tension, release, triumph, and dread. Standout cuts like the brooding title track, the nervy "Mexican War Streets," the menacing (and oddly kind of bucolic) "Red Cow," and the propulsive, pop-kissed "Magic Lantern Days" find the sweet spot between melodic post-rock and strident hardcore, with Weiss' distinct, conversational voice and stream-of-consciousness lyricism lending the whole thing a distinctly Danielson Famile/Sunny Day Real Estate/Frog Eyes vibe. Fans who had trouble connecting during the group's recent forays into wiry chamber pop and expansive art rock will find much to love here, as much of Pale Horses is driven by sheer volume (of the pained kind), but they've retained a bit of that fervor for sonic exploration, and listeners can rarely predict what kind of turn a song will take at any given moment.

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