The Mary Onettes - Portico - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Mary Onettes - Portico

by David Bruggink Rating:8 Release Date:2014-03-04

The Mary Onettes have been reliably providing hook-laden dream pop since the release of their debut in 2007. Their continuing fondness for soaring vocal harmonies, hummable choruses and a generous heaping of cathedral-sized reverb could be seen as either advantage or liability. There's little doubt that a Mary Onettes album will hit the same sweet spot that New Order and The Cure were hitting in their most memorable moments a few decades ago.

Those are some of the references that come readily to mind, but I would also throw in some of the lesser-known gems of the era, like Scotland's Lowlife (see '

'). What they have in common with the Mary Onettes is their desire to bridge the gap between post-punk and dream pop, merging the driving rhythms of the former with the atmospherics of the latter.

Last year's excellent Hit the Waves saw the Swedish band incorporating woozy melodies and guitar lines that evoked more of a beach party under the stars than a midnight drive through Stockholm; it also suggested that the band was getting more comfortable in their own skin and stepping out from under the shadows of their idols. Their newest, Portico:, feels considerably more self-assured than their earlier material, and it's also darker than Hit the Waves.

At only seven tracks and twenty-seven minutes, Portico: is long enough to make a memorable statement but not so long that it overstays its welcome - a good thing, considering that the impressive number of hooks throughout, combined with the nostalgic fog that drapes the album, makes listening to Portico: a bit like eating a rich dessert. Before you read too much into that "fog," though, I should mention that the album's nostalgic sound is very well balanced; at no point does the pervasive melancholy degenerate into muddiness.

Portico:'s driving tracks like 'Naive Dream' and 'Your Place' make the album feel like a Nordic cousin to Diiv's Oshin, while its slower songs like 'Bells For Stranger' and 'Ritual Mind' respectfully draw inspiration from the shimmering, epic moments of Disintegration (particularly 'Plainsong' and 'Closedown'). It strikes me that it must be more difficult to make dream pop work when the tempo drops, when the interlocking bass line and drums no longer provide that urgent rhythmic foundation, but it's to the band's credit that these songs work just as well as the more energetic ones. The roiling drum patterns of 'Ritual Mind,' for example, ensure that the track stays consistently absorbing.

Every sound here feels intentionally placed, even the occasional pretentious field recording, and as a result, the album feels compact and filler-free. Portico: further demonstrates that the Mary Onettes are no longer confined to imitating sounds from a certain era, but rather are capable of making their own valid statement with them.

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