Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fear Me, December

The expression above would make a cool Facebook status update, wouldn’t it… It is taken from Mew’s song Apocalypso. So, what about Mew? To be honest, this band doesn’t have much to do with power pop. Still, they are one of my oldest favourites, older than almost any power pop band I’ve ever listened to. Mew’s music is melodic and wonderful, and because I am a melody freak, something should definitely be said about them. Plus, they have a cool Christmas song for us popsters... More about the song later.

Mew comes from Denmark, although the band members have been residing in the United Kingdom for quite some time, I think. The band was founded in 1995. Musically, they are usually described as an alternative rock band, playing music that is a mix of dreamy pop melodies, shoegazing and progressive rock. Lately they have even begun adding some experimental qualities which means there may be more challenge in the listening.

The band released their first two albums A Triumph for a Man and Half the World Is Watching Me in 1997 and 2000. Both were re-released in 2006-2007 due to the band's increased popularity and common interest towards the earlier albums. Frengers (2003, meaning “not quite friends, not quite strangers”) was their first international release and a huge success not only in Scandinavia but also helped the band to launch a career elsewhere. The album contains new songs and some rerecorded versions of old songs from the first two albums. The follow-up, Mew and the Glass Handed Kites was released in 2005. It was a considerably more challenging album but included some of the band’s best loved songs.

Here are Mew’s three latest albums:

Strange covers, right... I bet that is what they intended.

Mew’s latest album was released earlier this year and it has a quite long name. It is 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. Not a world record breaking name but pretty long anyway… I bought the album but have only listened to it twice so far. It is definitely not enough. Well, I’ve been quite busy listening to 50 songs from a certain sun-related band every day… I am an addict, I’ll admit it anytime. I love it… But finding time for other bands can get a bit difficult at times.

However, there was a time when I was seriously addicted to Mew’s album Frengers. The year was 2003 and it all started when I heard and saw a video for the song 156. It was dreamy, yet rocking and extremely catchy in its own strange way. The vocalist also sounded quite intriguing… I got the album and found several songs that I have still found myself listening repeatedly six years later. I think I could listen to 156 dozens of times in a row and still not get bored of it… That is special, I would say. It is no wonder, however, that Mew’s melancholic, dreamy music has mesmerized loads of people here in the north. There is no denying that Mew has captured some unique melodies in their songs.

Try Frengers, for example. In addition to 156 there are songs like Am I Wry? No, Snow Brigade, not to mention the utterly beautiful Comforting Sounds – the title says it all... Also pay attention to Behind the Drapes, another favorite of mine, or perhaps check out the ear-melting duet ballad Symmetry. This stuff is just awesome... A lot of the magic comes from lead vocalist Jonas Bjerre. Bjerre, who according to some people, looks like a 16-year-old, sounds very distinctive. He has a broad vocal scale but on the other hand his voice has been described as fragile or even weak. I am personally not so sure about the weakness – his voice certainly sounds sufficiently strong to me – and having such a unique sound can’t really be a weakness.

After Frengers Mew have changed their sound. On ...And the Glass Handed Kites the guitars have a lot more cold, metallic sound but the songs are just as wonderful. Check out The Zookeeper’s Boy, for instance, or White Lips Kissed - those songs are just so pretty. I also adore Apocalypso and the surreal short film/music video for it.

Mew are known for their strong visual side. Band members focus a lot on the visual values and if you ask me that can never be a bad thing (as long as the music comes first, of course). There is a plenty of visual art expertise among the band, so the band’s singles and gigs are illustrated with very fine graphics and even short films. Mew’s music videos are a joy to watch. The band has made some of the most memorable videos I have ever seen. Some of the videos are a bit disturbing (which is of course not a bad thing in itself) but most of them are just plain beautiful.

Then, finally the Christmas song… It can be heard on Frengers and it is called She Came Home for Christmas. There are two different versions of the video but in both of them there is a ballerina princess waltzing with a bear in a magical forest. Then, a witch appears… Sounds like a fairy tale? Well, yeah! A fairy tale-like Christmas is the coolest thing I could hope for!

Official website

Videos (YouTube)
She Came Home For Christmas
(version 1 – with the band) (version 2 – without the band)
Comforting Sounds
Behind the Drapes (not an official music video but too cool a song to skip here...)
Am I Wry? No
The Zookeeper’s Boy
Why Are You Looking Grave?
Repeaterbeater (new video)

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