Monuments, the new album from Ume, is one of the more intriguing records that has been released so far in 2014. The Austin, TX-based band’s third full length studio release is such an interesting listen because at no point over the course of its dozen total songs does it ever allow itself to be fully pigeonholed into one specific subset of the rock world or another. At one point, it bears something of a semi-stoner rock influence, while at others its sound is more indie-rock. Add in the hybrid Joan Jett/Courtney Love style vocals of singer Lauren LL throughout the album, and listeners get in Monuments a record that is well worth at least one listen.
The album’s aforementioned semi-stoner rock influence is obvious right off the top in the album’s opener, ‘Black Stone.’ Langner Larson and her band mates—Rachel Fuhrer (drums) and Eric Larson (bass)—waste no time getting into listeners’ heads with their collective talent in this song. Lauren LL’s song-opening guitar line is a standard mid-tempo rock riff that is certain to get any listener playing along on their own air guitar both in their bedrooms and cars. Fuhrer and Eric Larson add just enough of their own heaviness to the song to have said listeners proudly putting their horns in the air at the same time. Lyrically speaking, Langner Larson’s words are somewhat cryptic. She sings in the song’s final verse, You never see/The cries of another/Never did see/The wars till the rubble/Crumbled on/You and me/The damage done/Battles are not/Ever won/Never won.” Is it bad that Larson leaves her lyrics up to interpretation? No. That openness to interpretation set alongside the song’s equally engaging musical side makes ‘Black Stone’ a fitting feeling for what fans can expect throughout the rest of this record.
The energy and power established by the members of Ume in ‘Black Stone’ doesn’t stop with that song. If anything, it’s stepped up even more as the album progresses. This is evidenced in the song ‘Chase It Down.’ Again, the song’s seemingly metaphorical lyrics are left widely to interpretation. The most common sense interpretation is that this is a song of self-empowerment of sorts. Langner Larson asks her subject in the song’s chorus, “Are you the one they forget/Are you the one they love to neglect/Are you the one alone at last/Are you the one who won’t beg for it?” She follows that up by telling said subject, “Chase it down/In this skin.” One can’t help but wonder whom she is addressing here. That is irrelevant here though. She could be addressing anyone. That being understood, it makes the frantic energy exuded by the band in this piece all the harder hitting, especially in the buildup to the song’s climactic finale. It will all leave listeners breathless by the time that energy explodes in those final moments.
For all of the frenetic energy exuded throughout the course of Monuments, it does actually have its softer moments. ‘Gleam’ is one of those moments. Langner Larson shows real control over her vocals throughout the song even when it picks up about a minute and a half in. That gentility in her vocals is wonderfully complimented by the almost poppy guitar line and reserved drumming on the part of Rachel Fuhrer. If one listens very closely, one will even note what sounds like a mandolin playing ever so softly alongside Langner Larson’s vocals early on. As subtle as the pairing is and as short as it is, it adds so much depth to the song. It makes this one more part of an album that has earned the title of one of this year’s most intriguing new albums.
Audiences can hear any of the songs noted here and many more live as the band tours in support of Monuments. The band is performing today alongside Blondie and Gary Numan in Austin, Texas at Brazos Hall. The band has a number of other dates scheduled straight through May. Fans can check out the band’s latest tour schedule online now at http://www.facebook.com/umemusic and http://www.umemusic.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.