When I first picked up Catch For Us The Foxesback in high school, my first foray into the band’s catalogue) I couldn’t put it down. Not only does it completely rock (show me a better post-rock opener than “Torches Together”), but the lyrics are mesmerizing. At times deeply confessional (think St. Augustine rather than Chris Carrabba) and shockingly transparent in the best traditions of their emo-aligned peers, other times spiritual, existential, and mythic in the style of Psalms and W.B. Yeats, Aaron Weiss is unlike any other lyricist recording music today. And that’s just the words on the page— his vocal delivery is equally unique. Following their post-hardcore/screamo-infused A > B Life, Weiss’s vocals have become increasingly nuanced, ranging from spoken word to a strained, sorrowful tenor singing to the most throat-shredding scream you’ve ever heard.
The delicate balance Weiss strikes between these different registers throughout mewithoutYou’s impressive catalogue would be enough of a reason to buy everything they put out, but that’s only one portion of the equation— the band are also ludicrously talented. Aaron’s brother (Michael Weiss) uses his guitar to create the perfect sonic foil to Aaron’s promethean vocal style, with seamless transitions between sweet, lilting picked sections, hard-hitting low-tuned power chords, and heavily wah-ed solos that would make Circa Survive take notice. Combine Weiss’s atmospheric guitar work with the frenetic, gut-punching percussion lines of band regular Rickie Mazzotta (I’ve seen him live do entire immaculate drum solos with his shirt folded over his face, it’s something else) and you have a band that somehow perfectly captures Aaron Weiss’s emotional gymnastics, complex musings on the nature of faith and God, snatches of Rumi, Hebrew scripture, the Q’uran, the Bible, etc.
Weiss’s range is perhaps the most evident it has ever been on [Untitled]. The album sings softly in the quiet corners then just as quickly leaps out of the shadows. Unsettling reverb effects on Weiss’s already memorable vocals, more sophisticated song structure (face-melting solos!), and call-backs to imagery from some of their beloved back catalogue make this album an unexpectedly experimental follow-up to 2015’s flawless Pale Horses, an album I had already believed was the perfect distillation of all of the best qualities from past favorites Catch For Us The Foxes (2004) and Brother, Sister(2006). That being said,[Untitled] gives Pale Horsesa run for its money. While Pale Horsesfelt reminiscent of the kind of imagery and thematic craft that made Brother, Sisterso memorable (farm life and animals rather than nautical imagery being a major distinction) and gives it perhaps the best claim to “following” Brother, Sister, [Untitled] is perhaps then the “follow-up” to Catch For Us The Foxesthat I never knew I was waiting for. The most obvious connections being the opening track “9:27a.m., 7:29” of [Untitled] possessing not only some of the same numbers, but more importantly a similar fixation with recapturing an exact moment in time with the first single off Catch For Us The Foxes, “January 1979.” The biblical imagery and lexicon of “New Wine, New Skins” is also eerily similar though matured (or is it “aged?”) to the chilling closer off Catch For Us The Foxes, “Son of a Widow” (“Grape on the vine, grape on the vine, we’ve been alone a long time. Grape on the vine, why not be crushed to make wine?”). Maybe I’m just a fan that’s too close to the material, but it seems fitting given the approach of the 15th anniversary (and hopefully vinyl reissue???) of Catch For Us The Foxesthat [Untitled] would revisit some of the themes that made that album so magical.
Listeners who have never encountered mewithoutYou before need go no further than “Julia (or, ‘Holy to the LORD’ on the Bells of Horses)” to figure out if this is a band you should listen to (hint: you should). Even better, would be to listen to this track while watching the music video, which manages to be both a playfully nostalgic and darkly relevant (think more 1984 than 1985, when you watch it you’ll know what I mean) reimagining of the “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance sequence from Back To The Future. The track itself includes some of simplest, and therefore most expansive, chord progressions they have every played along with an instantly memorable lead pattern. The delicate, almost whispered, vocals, especially in the verse sections, that oscillate between addressing the mysterious “Julia” and a direct reference to the Book of Zechariah from the Bible in which “Holy to the LORD” is inscribed on the harness bells of horses (and pots and other stuff too) sets the listener up for the brutal bridge section where Weiss literally screams behind the pounding of drop D chords. The song ends with a final “we sank like stones to the bottom of a made up ocean,” which is perhaps to most fitting description of the feelings imbued in this album as a whole. Some of the “stones” on this album are thrown angrily from shore, some come burning through the atmosphere to crash and smolder in the sea, while still others are lovingly skipped across the surface of the waves only to twinkle gently down into darkness.
Suggestions for further listening: Science Fiction-Brand New, Deja Entendu– Brand New, Saosin-Saosin, Along The Shadow– Saosin, Juturna– Circa Survive, On Letting Go– Circa Survive, Nearer My God– Foxing