Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Umphrey's Mantis



Umphrey's McGee fans should be enjoying their newest studio album, Mantis. The album was actually released in January, but I have only recently had the chance to listen to it and really get the feel of their newest few songs.

The songs on Mantis are very similar to their other songs. This band pretty much maintains their sound from album to album. I'm not saying that as criticism; if you love their music, here is more of it. They have some songs that jam for seven to ten minutes. Then you have other songs that are the traditional three minute length. Like the band themselves, you don't know what to expect.

I think I initially fell in love with Umphrey's because of their unique sound. They don't create traditional songs that you hear on the radio. It's actually hard for them to be radio friendly because they stray from the norm. It's even hard to categorize their kind of music. I just call them jam. I was probably drawn to them similar as others were. And, when they play their concerts, they really put on a good show. I saw them at Bonnaroo last year, and they were absolutely phenomenal.

I first fell in love with them on The Bottom Half, but I am enjoying Mantis as well. It doesn't steal my heart the way that double disc did, though. The songs on Mantis are great, but I wasn't overly blown away by them. I wasn't immediately hooked on the album as I was with earlier ones. When Safety in Numbers came out, I instantly connected with it, but I don't have that same draw with this album.

Umphrey's still uses some musical techniques that makes me love them as a band. I love their longer songs. They really can put together a long piece of music that flows and builds and falls back--you can really get into those. Even watching those live is absolutely insane. I really like how they change tempos throughout songs; some songs start out slow or fast, then halfway through the song they go to the opposite rhythm and bring it back again. When I first heard "The Bottom Half," I thought it was two songs cut off because the transition was so different between sounds. But, I love that it is one song.

They keep that same sound transition in their new songs too. Specifically, "Cemetary Walk" transitions like this. The end of it becomes slower as the beginning half is opposite. I love that about their music. It's daring and different. I like that they keep certain techniques that are different and work for them and continue to employ them in further songs they create.

I also really enjoy that they don't feel forced to always add lyrics and vocals. "Cemetary II" does not contain lyrics, and "Turn & Run" and "Spires" mosly have no vocals. "Preamble" is obviously an introductory or transitionary short song, and I find it a little creepy but very creative and interestingly put together.

Maybe it's just me, but I found this album harder to get into. Even though they generally keep the same sound, the songs are not as catchy as other Umphrey's songs. Maybe they take a little listening to and getting used to. Maybe it's not an easy listen. It could be a deeper album that I need to let sit for a while and then get into later on. I wonder what other Umphrey's fans feel about this new album.

They're still on top though. They can still make some incredible music that strays from typical rock and roll. And that's what I love about them. They are quite a unique band.

So, what do you think of Umphrey's Mantis?

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