mewithoutYou is one of my favorite bands. Aaron Weiss’ spoken word vocals and their willingness to explore some dark themes give them a unique post-hardcore sound that I just can’t get enough of. Their last album, It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All a Dream! It’s Alright, alienated a lot of fans with its lighter sound and children’s stories about foxes and beetles. Ten Stories, which is released today, returns to the sound of past albums while holding on to the animal motif. Ten Stories tells the story of a circus train crash made up of several stories told by circus animals.
A return to the sound they are known for. The first track, “February, 1878,” is a reprise of one of the band’s best known songs, “January, 1979”. Songs like “Cardiff Giant” highlight the evolution of the band, opening with a whimsical sound similar to songs on It’s all Crazy . . ., but ending with driving spoken word, giving the best of what mewithoutYou does. Hayley Williams from Paramore does some background vocals, which also gives the band an interesting new sound.
mewithoutYou is well known for their honest spiritual themes. Because of these themes, their lyrics have always been hard to understand. Ten Stories is no different, with the added difficulty of an album spanning allegory about animals. Getting used to the idea that characters are speaking, and that these characters are animals makes it especially difficult to understand. Lines like “Tonight I think it’s clear that there’s no God. //And there’s definitely a God!” or “All circles presuppose their end where they begin//But only in their leaving can they ever come back around” are almost impossible to understand without sitting down with the album, a lyrics book and some time to figure out what is going on. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though.