On Oni Pond

Man Man

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On Oni Pond Review

by Jason Lymangrover

On earlier outings, Man Man's sound resembled a demented carnival, with oddball junkyard instrumentation and unexpected twists and turns in their compositions. For On Oni Pond, the Philadelphia group turns in their most simply orchestrated record to date and their most melodic overall. Over the course of their prior four albums they had subtly been moving in a poppier direction, with 2011's Life Fantastic showing signs of going mainstream. Here, all the extraneous arrangement and genre-hopping are distilled into what could be summed up simply, if not totally accurately, as a lounge version of Modest Mouse. There are still hints of klezmer and Gypsy punk in their choices of rhythms and minor-key chord progressions, but this is Man Man at their most stable. With all the edges sanded, On Oni Pond feels a bit like the type of record that a vocalist will often make after going solo. That said, concentrating on what best suits a song can be a blessing for a band that often favored disjointed experimentation over structure. Here, simple hooks dominate. Driving home this point, "Curtains" is a stripped-down ballad that finds frontman Honus Honus singing sweetly over a lone piano, and "Deep Cover" is the same, with a ukulele. Even when noodling is kept to a minimum, his unique rasp and cartoonish lyrics inject enough personality to the indie pop formula to keep things interesting. Maturity suits the group, and "Pink Wonton," "Sparks," "Paul's Grotesque," and "Head On" have all the makings of breakout singles with their fun, memorable choruses and subtle yet clever musicianship.

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