Mazes

Wooden Aquarium

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After recording one album that sounded like a bunch of kids hammering out their favorite Pavement and Guided by Voices songs (2011's A Thousand Heys) and another of carefully pieced together German art rock-influenced songs that noodled around while still delivering some indie rock kicks (2013's Ore & Minerals), Mazes' third album could have gone just about anywhere. Recorded live by Parquet Courts' producer Jonathan Schenke with few overdubs and mostly using first takes, 2014's Wooden Aquarium splits the difference between the two approaches and comes up with a result that really works well for the trio. While keeping the (mostly) more considered tempos and retaining the oft-complicatedly intertwined guitar parts, Mazes brought back a little more of the energy that they initially displayed. Especially in the rhythm section, which has a steady and powerful presence throughout the record. This keeps the album from sounding too arty or constructed, and helps make the hooks even sharper when they appear. Which they do quite early, as on the opening "Astigmatism," which gallops like a horse that was just set free, and then quite often throughout the album. Meandering tracks like the restrained "Explode into Colo(u)rs" and "RIPP" are used as breaks for breath between the more direct and impactful songs. The second half of the album contains a stunning run of great pop songs, starting with the motorik "Letters Between U and V" and ending with the 1-2-3 punch of the Flying Nun-inspired "Stamford Hill" and the absolutely gorgeous "Universal Me" and "The Third Ridge." It's a brilliant conclusion to a really strong album that shows Mazes growing in just the right way, adding some maturity and substance without sacrificing the things (great songs, youthful energy) that made them worth hearing in the first place. Anyone looking for a good example of indie rock done right in 2014 could do much worse than checking out Wooden Aquarium.

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