Mew are a band who have gone from strength to strength effortlessly since their breakout album Frengers in 2003. “Many of the songs on this one are more direct,” says frontman Jonas Bjerre, “a little less clouded than they were on the last album.” This rings true immediately. + - is far more accessible than their previous album, No More Stories…, which has taken me all of nearly six years to really get into. This is their most versatile album by far, at some points harking back to the simpler, more direct nature of their earlier albums and at others demonstrating the prog-y, math-y complexity developed in No More Stories…, but without seeming all over the place, unfocused.
+ - is accessible, and from now on will be the album I suggest to someone getting into Mew. It is instantly gratifying, but still rewards repeated listens. The album opens with two songs the band had released in the run-up to the album’s release – Satellites and Witness – which is a little worrying, as I wondered whether they might disappointingly end up being the best songs on the album, like when a movie trailer uses every good line in its one minute thirty second duration. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and I was more blown away by the rest of the album than by the previously released songs. Clinging to a Bad Dream introduces a long, bass-y build-up into a heavily drum-driven song, punctuated by Jonas Bjerre’s sharp falsetto punches, ending in a slow, dreamy melodic finish with guitar and vocals. In a rather dramatic change, My Complications follows this and sounds at first like a Bloc Party track with its guitar intro. As Bjerre’s vocals come in, Mew immediately put their own surprising spin on it. No matter how strange or out of place something sounds at first, Mew always somehow envelop it into their own style in a way you’d never have expected.
If this were any other band, I may have given this album a higher score. My only gripe with + - is really that I know Mew have more in them. This new album probably shows them producing their best ever “high point” songs and there is plenty to love about that. But Mew’s low points are some of the most powerful I’ve ever heard – older songs like Comforting Sounds or Eight Flew Over, One Was Destroyed or even Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy from No More Stories… This was a point in the album that I was waiting to be hit by, but it never came. My dilemma is that I love every track on + -; I’ve been addicted to the album for the past week or so. But I know Mew have a dimension to their music that doesn’t come across in this album and for me it’s their most powerful aspect.
Regardless, + - will no doubt go down as one of my favourite albums of 2015 and will feature in my rotation to an unhealthy degree. For anyone who hasn’t heard Mew before, I urge you to listen to this album.