Words About Music
For over two decades, Iceland has been the unlikely source of some very interesting pop music. Whether it’s avant-pop princess Björk, ambient post-rock gods Sigur Rós, or experimental glitch-pop outfit múm, there’s always something interesting going on. While the first two artists continue to make interesting and worthwhile music, it’s difficult to say the same for múm, whose releases have been somewhat inconsistent, especially since the vocalists on their beloved early albums left in 2006 and were replaced with a large collective of musicians and singers. One of these singers includes Ólöf Arnalds, the cousin of neoclassical composer Ólafur Arnalds.
For their sixth release, múm do less experimenting and sort of stick with the same sound they’ve been going for. They end up just sounding like an adult-alternative version of Animal Collective but if they hired Beth Gibbons as the vocalist. It’s truly not a very exciting release for a band whose dullness has always worked in its favor up until recently. “Smilewound” has its gems, but for the most part a lot of the songs blend in an unsatisfactory way. Really, the tracks sound the same. That’s what I’m trying to say here.
At times, the glitchy instrumentals become too much to even enjoy. They just overwhelm me in the worst possible way. It’s not Flaming Lips overwhelming or Sigur Rós overwhelming, the instrumentals are just too busy and not interesting enough. The melodies and lyrics don’t really help “Smilewound” recover either. If you ask me, the most interesting parts of this album are the sounds created by your standard guitar/bass/drums/stringed instruments. The electronic sequences do absolutely nothing for me.
2013 has seen some excellent pop albums, both straightforward and avant-garde. The Knife, Mariam The Believer, Charli XCX, and Justin Timberlake have all released some fascinating and fun records that are worthwhile even in their own superficiality, if they ever are superficial. “Smilewound” does not excite me the same way that these albums did. The bells and xylophones don’t bring anything interesting to the table. I don’t even mind that “Smilewound” lacks any sort of creativity. Very few pop albums contain creativity or originality, be they in lyrics or in production. But “Smilewound” goes about being boring in a way that makes me think that múm should call it quits.
SCORE – 3.5
FAVORITE TRACKS – Toothwheels, When Girls Collide, Time To Scream And Shout