Since the turn of the century, Philadelphia quintet mewithoutYou have been producing vastly emotional rock music; debut album 'A-B Life' saw them very much full of screaming vocals and aggressive riffs, but as the band progressed they got calmer bringing in more indie influences and even going full folk for 'It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All A Dream! It's Alright'. That being said, wherever mewithoutyou end up on the sonic spectrum you can always rely on them to be emotionally striking and that is no different with newest album 'Pale Horses'.
The lullaby-esque title track instantly puts you at ease with gentle strokes and Weiss' tender vocals. However, the peace is soon broken as the menacing 'Watermelon Ascot' injects some muscle with lower-pitched riffs and more theatrical vocals. Sonically, it has the same characteristics as someone who comes across as tough, but underneath is fragile.
'Mexicanwar Streets' is an unpredictable ride as it constantly swaps between calm and chaotic; the twinkly picking of strings interrupted by a bombardment of fierce lyrics like 'how long before our tails are caught by our "free" thoughts?' and 'nature had another plan and failed to run it by me' from Weiss. It's always impressive how many words he can fit into one breath.
'Red Cow' is another laid back number, before the emotional onslaught as Weiss' vocals once again become manic. mewithoutyou's instrumentation has always been powerful, and remains to be so, but it will often be Weiss' vocals that are the main focal point, being as commanding and attention grabbing as they are. 'Lilac Queen' begins eerily peaceful too, but turns into more haunting territory as the guitars speed up alongside bitter lyrics: 'you were the Werewolf King peddling round your sapphire ring'.
An appropriately summery vibe arrives with 'Magic Lantern Days' thanks to cheery acoustic guitar. It's one of the few songs on 'Pale Horses' where peace isn't disrupted by more penetrating vocals or muscular guitars. While stomping guitars and emotion vocals are effective, it's also nice to have a song of pure bliss every now and again, which mewithoutyou deliver here.
Album closer 'Rainbow Signs' is much more atmospheric and the longest song on the album, clocking in at six minutes. There's that same quiet/loud dynamic, but with more craft and elegance to it; as the crescendo hits, it's like an emergency siren in slow motion and makes for a memorable finish to the album.
While 'Pale Horses' doesn't see mewithoutyou treading any new ground, it is them doing what they do best, and that's creating music that leaves feelings laid bare. If you're looking for a band that can be easy-listening but still have an edge, then look no further.
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