Spare in name only, Mew's sixth studio long-player is even more ambitious than 2009's loftily titled No More Stories/Are Told Today/I'm Sorry/They Washed Away/No More Stories/The World Is Grey/I'm Tired/Let's Wash Away, doubling down on the shimmery, light/dark Passion Pit-inspired electro-pop that served as the foundation for their last major-label outing, while bringing back some of the angular post-rock angst of earlier works like Frengers (2003) and And the Glass Handed Kites (2005). It's the latter work that looms largest on + -, their first release for Belgian independent label PIAS (Play It Again Sam), due in large part to it being a reunion with producer Michael Beinhorn and bass player Johan Wohlert, neither of whom had worked with the band since their 2005 outing. Beinhorn and Wohlert's contributions add some sonic weight to the proceedings, as does, to a lesser extent, Bloc Party guitarist Russell Lissack, who provides the album with its meatiest offering, the blistering "My Complications," which he co-wrote. New Zealand electro-soul pop star Kimbra lends her mellifluous voice to the soaring "Night Believer," but as per usual (mew-sual?), it's frontman Jonas Bjerre's distinctive croon that sets the tone. Mew have always been at their best when mining beauty from existential horror, and that heady mix of childlike wonder and general uneasiness (which Bjerre excels at) is the electrical current that powers + -'s best moments, which arrive via the knotty single "Satellites," the aforementioned "My Complications," and the album-closing epics "Rows" and "Cross the River on Your Own." Free from any sort of major-label constraints, the band sounds both invigorated and restless, and while deciphering their skewed Danish pop sensibilities can often prove challenging, it's well worth the effort, as the results can just as often be breathtaking.
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger