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Mice Parade - Candela

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Artist: Mice Parade

Album: Candela

Label: FatCat

Review date: Jan. 29, 2013

Adam Pierce has been leading the group Mice Parade through a series of fluctuating lineups for over a decade. Volley out the keywords: some shoegaze, some non-Western elements in terms of instrumentation, and more than a little loud-quiet-loud, in terms of the sonic dynamics. In 2010, the group released What It Means to be Left-Handed, which assembled a mixtape’s worth of styles and vocalists. Arguably, the strongest number on there was “Mallo Cup,” which was also the album’s most instrumentally restrained: think heartfelt indie rock, its transition into rolling feedback the kind of thing that might have been heard on stage at a show at your hometown’s best indie rock venue circa 1999. (For what it’s worth, that’s meant in the best way possible.)

Previously, Pierce’s efforts have married traditional indie-rock narratives with unconventional instrumentation, and it has made for an impressively disorienting experience – the sound of anthemic sadness cast against an unexpected musical background. That approach largely paid off; the instrumental change-ups helping to renew a fairly traditional sound. On Candela, a more dour work, the ratio seems to have shifted toward poppier elements abutting instrumental iconoclasm, a program that can occasionally frustrate.

That isn’t to say that Candela doesn’t work, but it does feel like it’s trying a little bit harder relative to the group’s recent output. “Currents” weds a polyrhythmic backdrop to a nimble guitar line and rests melodic vocals atop that, but it fits into an awkward spot occasionally, neither blissed-out nor brain-teasing. “Pretending” follows a similar template, with vocal interplay situated above drumming that moves from steady to expansive; as Pierce’s vocals and lyrics move from guarded to confessional, the guitars grow louder and more frenzied, and the song’s more cathartic elements move to the foreground.

Perhaps Candela marks a move away from pop expectations. The awkwardly-titled “The Chill House” ably blends a static drone mood, while the title track moves from the group’s established sound to a mournful guest vocal, a sort of European take on a style that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Calexico album. “This River Has a Tide” takes the singer-songwriter element present throughout this group’s sound and pushes it into a more stylized place, with layers of ominous percussion and waves of eccentric keyboards. And “Look See Dream Me” taps into an equally blissed-out sonic space, channeling it for just over four minutes.

Candela doesn’t represent Mice Parade’s most memorable outing, but it does showcase a willingness to expand the expectations surrounding their sound. That push isn’t always successful, but its most rewarding elements stand beside this group’s strongest achievements.

By Tobias Carroll

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