Mini Mansions – The Great Pretenders review

Last month saw LA trio Mini Mansions head out on tour supporting Royal Blood, in support of their new album, The Great Pretenders, released on March 23rd on T Bone Burnett’s Electromagnectic Recordings, via Fiction Records. The band boasts Michael Shuman (current bassist in Queens Of The Stone Age), with the album managing to feature both Brian Wilson and Alex Turner. Mini Mansions recently supported Arctic Monkeys on several US dates, with Alex joining them for Vertigo, which has recently seen Radio 1 play, all moulded together to create a busy few months for the band.

Freakout! opens the record, a strange mix of optimism and deadpan melancholy, accompanied with heavy distortion to create intriguing vocals matched up with a musical backdrop that adds a modern spin on classic rock. Layering up a music-box style backing with instrumental suited to a haunted house, constantly wavering around, the raspy vocals seem the only consistent part of Death Is A Girl. Music dances all over the place, and whilst it’s enthralling, there’s a sense that it’s equally over produced.

Hazy, lazy three and a half minute Creeps takes a simpler and more straightforward take to the music, and it’s refreshing that they’re not bound to overdo every track. Heightened control allows the line between instrumental and vocals to become blurred eerily, though “eerily” is a rather apt description for the assembly of the majority of the album – take note on the electronic keyboard in Fantasy. Whilst the vocals are distinct, they almost obscure the lyrics at points, blurred into the backing.

Dissociated vocals in Any Emotions split the sound of the track up, and the meandering pace of the song splits the record – so deliberate is the track, it feel much like it was forged under hard and powerful conditions to create an atmospheric weight. Again, a lullaby opening commences Vertigo, and the dense yet playful vocals of Alex Turner cut through the music, adding a lighter edge to the record.

Five minute Honey, I’m Home features a huge instrumental – again, blending the vocals in so well only exemplifies this. Heavy and, once again, atmospheric, it’s almost a surprise the backing doesn’t get boring, but tweaks and intricacies keep the music alive. Belting instrumental shocks against delicate vocal work, making Mirror Mountain one for striking incongruities.

Heart Of Stone makes it as my personal favourite off the record, for the cleaner sound and emotive vocals. Double Visions strikes up a solid mix between the two, a gentle close returning to the lullaby sound before closing The End, Again brings back an atmosphere, though not as heavy. Falsetto vocals wind into the music that almost falls into beach-pop at times, slowing the record for a repetitive and minimalistic finale.

The production on the album is certainly good, albeit at times over done and occasionally for the sake of it. Atmospheric and powerful, the band make solid use of instrumentals to show their capabilities, and the album is bound to be a success among rock fans, with the accessible edge sure to rope in waves of new listeners.


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