Menomena is three young-ish guys from Portland, Ore., who share a label with Death Cab for Cutie and play guitars and keyboards and do pretty usual band stuff. Broadly, they make indie-pop music and, at first blush, not even all that weird or different indie-pop music. But it's transcended indie-pop's present-day cannibalistic flatness--where bands feed on each other till the whole enterprise just kinda forgets that there are sonic dimensions that the palate can detect (why you still hear things such as She and Him)--and have been doing so for a good while. The band's new record, Mines, is the sort of deeply composed, complicated thing that isn't alien or difficult. Mostly, it's pretty, with light keyboard/synth accents and almost always subsurface melodic twinkling around big powerful undertows of horns and baritone sax. The drumming is adroit, though less showy and front-and-center than it's been on earlier albums. The vocals, shared between multi-instrumentalists Brent Knopf and Justin Harris and percussionist Danny Seim, arc into choir-like passages, weaving and harmonizing in reassuring and friendly ways.
And particularly on its latest two albums, Menomena is a very clean, meticulous band. You could pass out Menomena sheet music and wind up with a bunch of other Menomenas sounding pretty much the same; the music is that good and there aren't duds on the record. They sing about things such as being older and missing stuff and not being able to go back home again. Highly relistenable tunes include "Dirty Cartoons," a song so soaking in melancholy and romantic nostalgia that your personal life will get several points prettier. "Killemall" is remarkable for sneaking a trumpet into a song that is a comparative skeleton of keys and shaker. Another highlight, "Queen Black Acid," proves that another trait of this new dimension is the ability to put some 10 instruments and voices into an indie-pop song without sounding cluttered.