Mice Parade Mice Parade

[FatCat; 2007]

I visit the city often enough. By the city, I mean the grand old empire Apple of New York, and by often enough, I mean whenever I can get my friends to drive me down into the fold. You can sing a lot about the city, and most of those songs have already been sung. Interesting variations on the themes (loneliness, streetlights, and desperation, et al.) crop up continually, but every once in awhile, as a songwriter, you’re going to need to stretch your legs and look for some new inspiration. Travel down the thruway from the Hudson Valley to the city and you’ll pass a lot of road signs to places you’ll never visit. Some of the names catch your attention for a fleeting moment, but never enough to garner any true interest or exploration. But I pass by Bear Mountain every trip down, and it’s not a name my passengers or I will ever live down. It’s tactful, I’m sure, to simply bellow out “BEAAAR MOUNTAINNN” in the grizzliest voice you can muster and then inform everyone in the car to keep their eyes peeled like grapes for the beasts.

The idea of a Bear Mountain is a rich one. It’s one I’ve entertained many fantasies about (most involving park rangers being chased by a black bear in a honey-induced frenzy or a family trapped inside their SUV being circled by a growling pack of the brutes), and Mice Parade’s Adam Pierce must have entertained similar or wildly different notions. For this eponymous release, his seventh under the name, Pierce packed his bags and headed to the great Mount for his new inspiration. He changed his scenery to record an album full of nature and harmony outside of the traps of the smog-cooked streets of the city and their constant grates. And it’s about as good and fitting a soundtrack as the Mid-Hudson region needs.

Stellar drum work and fevered strumming are benchmarks of the album’s sound, so it’s surprising that the songs end up so introspective and ultimately down-key. “Sneaky Red” begins this tradition and starts the proceedings off on a high note, a vibraphone and electric guitar peppering Pierce’s gentle lyrical musings. Laetitia Sadier of Stereolab joins Pierce and a depressed keyboard on “Tales of Las Negras,” and they grace the song with an understated beauty. “Double Dolphins of the Nickel” features Kristin Anna Valtysdóttir of Müm tackling a good percentage of the vocals, with Pierce eventually joining up with her demented toddler intonation as they carry the song away as a spooky, sad duet. “Snow,” with its metal-guitar tendencies brimming just beneath the surface of the track, is safely harnessed by the butterfly-like electronic warbling placed over top.

Mice Parade is a good full-length effort, through and through, and I’m hard-pressed not to enjoy it while it' on. Its 35-minute runtime elapses quickly, and I’m satisfied, but I can’t help but revel in the nagging feeling of wanting something more. Each track is unique and memorable in its own way, but they all follow the same basic pattern and structure. Pierce is comfortable in this routine, but there’s no doubt in my mind that he’d benefit from being uncomfortable once in awhile.

Mice Parade is an album of carefully considered moments. Check it: 00:45 in the song “The Last Ten Homes,” when for just a few seconds a warm-sounding keyboard shows up for some sparse, haunting notes before devolving the song into a string of claps before building itself back up. Then listen again at the 02:00 mark for lush, layered vocal tracks. And then there’s 02:08 in “Satchelaise,” when Pierce comes to a standstill before purposefully exploding the song into a lavish cacophony. The album often floats gracefully into cluttered instrumentation while still maintaining that sense of mountainous serenity. And it’s never a mess, quite unlike what the bears on Bear Mountain will make of your campsite if you forget to suspend your garbage from a tree.

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