Mini Mansions - Mini Mansions

Chances are good you haven't heard or heard of Mini Mansions. Hell, I wouldn't have if not for the Them Crooked Vultures show back in April that presented me with their capacity to rock, as well as their propensity toward classic Blondie. After/during the show, I picked up their album/EP and wasn't completely blown away. Turns out, the music on the album is calmer and more ornamented than the brash hard-driving rock they displayed live. Of course, in retrospect, it makes sense that they'd rock as hard as possible given the band for which they were opening... but, well, I was tentative about liking the album right away because it felt soft, more produced and lacking in the pure animal grace of loud bark-singing, slammed piano keys and pounded drums. Time makes fools of us all. The album is, in all its low key glory, stellar! It's not riddled with hits. This isn't Sonny-Corleone-at-the-toll-booth packed with classic tracks, but it is completely enjoyable, and self-aware with a fine dose of Beatles-meet-prog rock. And the reason such a chill band would come along with TCV? Answer: Mini Mansions singer is Michael Shuman of Queens Of The Stone Age, making the 6 degrees game easily playable.

Mini Mansions, the album (self-released by the way), opens exceptionally strong with the catchy "Majik Marker" and holds a relaxed tone until the albums best track "Dirty T.K.O." bats in the fifth spot. It's a song with excellent composition. Not at all overambitious in the verses, it's quiet and calm and lyrically brilliant. Then the chorus rocks in, with hooky perfection that resonates in your head for days... or more, perhaps I've gone insane?... after its last turn on the table. The album is solid from there on out, but not phenomenal. Yet, it consistently pops up as a "must listen" disc at home and at work, so something has dug its claws into me. Mini Mansions lives by its fantastic harmonies, polite and enjoyable slow builds, and a lot of solid hooks that make each song lovable, if not entirely memorable. It also demonstrates the depth of the band, clearly far more than a power-pop trio, they can sling out some pastoral tones here and there and turn a ballad into a rock song, back to a ballad in a matter of moments. Listen to them via their MySpace page, and then find them live, see them, enjoy (hopefully!) a Blondie cover, and pay them for their album. It's too often that the little guys making great stuff get buried below the big label bullshit. Plus, you'll probably like most of it.

Score: 8/10

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