(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Recording review - MTHDS, Pretty Deep (2012)

Serious fun from Front Range favorites

MTHDS, those eclectic Colorado kids, have a new followup to their last full length album the methods (2009). Using that as a beachhead, Pretty Deep offers a similar mix of serious tracks and party tunes with an emphasis on rap vocals. On opening track "Influences", the band explains the basis of their sound:
Check it: music influences
Who's this? The newest kids
Movin, we threw in
A new styles, the fusion news
To combine punk, blues 'n soul
We just tried to line the new with old
Then, as they name check an iPod shuffle list of disparate artists, the laid back funk groove propels the song forward. MTHDS have a real knack for this fusion-style of hip hop, striking a balance between vocal flow and instrumental chops. That depth allows for some surprising transitions in the track as the chorus hits a punchy break and suddenly veers into a big rock interlude. The band also takes advantage of their connections in the musical community, inviting Chali 2na (Jurassic 5) to lend his rich bass voice to the track. His smoothly skipping delivery offers a nice contrast to the track.

The band doesn't unchain their party animal until "Ooh La La". The smart ass lyrics riff on a theme of shallow popularity like a snide cynic lurking in the VIP room while the band plays a jazzy danceable melody:
I want to make tracks that reach the masses
Make fat stacks while they shake their asses
Say lewd shit about havin' sex
And make music for bachelorettes
Chip Chipouras' bassline is particularly tasty. The band does a great job extending the music into a jam feast, which both offsets the snarky attitude in the vocals and casts them in a more venal light. The rowdier feel continues with a sweet Latin romp on "Bailando" and bro anthem of "Partay".

Just as the methods revived "Riot" and "Wicked Style" from their first EP, Music That Heightens Different Senses (2007), MTHDS reach back again to that album's "Time to Ride". For Pretty Deep, they radically rework it into "Time 2 Ride", retaining the ski bum manifesto theme but trading the bouncy, stoner funk vibe for a SoCal pop punk groove. The chorus remains recognizable despite the mutation, but the verses are completely different, with a hint of Beastie Boys rhythm.

The album closes by turning back to the serious side for the last three songs. Of these "Stand Down" is my favorite. The social commentary and big chorus feel a bit like the Flobots; they're only missing Mackenzie Robert's spirited viola. These three pieces work well together, though, completing an arc for the album that works well with auto repeat. When the album loops, it converts Pretty Deep from a party sandwich to a flipping coin, but either way the MTHDS take advantage of their musical diversity.

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