Plumbiferous Media

Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know – múm

Aug 30th 2009
One Comment
Sing Along to Songs You Don't Know - múmmúm
Sing Along to Songs You Don't Know
Score: 26

Múm is an experimental group from Iceland whose previous work has been marked by a strong electronic influence. Since their formation in 1997, they’ve released six albums. Their newest album, Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know, is varied enough in its experimentation that it should by all rights be at least interesting, but it manages to fall short.

One of the largest problems with Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know is the instrumental decisions. While much of Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know uses a standard of guitar, strings, and pure synth, múm has also decided that that arrangement lacks diversity (and it does). But in order to make the instrumentals more interesting, the band relies heavily on effects and distortion as well as odd (and most likely synthesized) percussive sounds such as those of “Sing Along” or the springing sound of “Prophesies & Reversed Memories.” Occasionally the band even takes this experimentation slightly further: “The Smell of Today Is Sweet Like Breastmilk in the Wind,” as an example, uses electronic percussion that sounds only slightly better than someone playing with the percussion patch on a cheap keyboard. While múm clearly knew it needed experimentation to keep the album alive, it also clearly did not know how exactly it should experiment.

The vocals of Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know aren’t bad. They simply fail to hold the interest of the listener for the entirety of the album. Múm’s tendency towards muted vocals would be entirely forgivable if it created a stronger connection with the music or improved the album as a whole. Instead, it results in the vocals falling into a harmonious but repetitive pattern early in the album and never leaving it. Pushed below the electronic effects and instrumental oddities which fill Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know, the vocals are never notable past their presence as yet another sound on an often cluttered and rarely interesting album.

Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know certainly suffers lyrically from the mediocre vocal presence on the album. However, the lyrics don’t need any help whatsoever to be the worst part of the album. Obviously meant to be playful, they instead come off as laughable, further decreasing any holding power the album might have had. After its beginning with “If I Were a Fish,” which contains such amazing lines as “If I were a fish / And you were a seashell / Would you marry me anyway? / Would you have my babies?” the album moves straight into the unsettling (if somewhat hilarious) section from “Sing Along: “You are so beautiful to us / We want to lock you in a house / We want to beat you with a spoon / We want to make you sing along / To songs you don’t know.” The lyrics take a slight break from making no sense whatsoever on “A River Don’t Stop to Breathe,” where they’re a fairly well-used part of the track – but that’s an isolated incident. The lyrics only get worse from there, to the point where the quasi-word “Hullaballabalú” masquerades as a line – and not well.

Although the lyrics put the rest of the album to shame in this regard, Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know is often overly simplistic. And while the music was clearly meant to fit well with the lyrics, imitating in sound the images the phrases provide, doing so is not particularly beneficial to the album when the lyrical content is made up of inter-species relationships and nonsense words. Of course, when the lyrics turn from perturbing to dull, the music does as well, leaving many tracks, especially those towards the end of the album, uninteresting even to the point of being forgettable.

Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know shows some promise. “A River Don’t Stop to Breathe,” though not perfect, is interesting not only harmonically and melodically, but also in instrumentation. Later, “Kay-Ray-Ku-Ku-Ko-Kex,” despite its healthy use of non-words, provides a much needed point of diversity on the album in addition to using interesting chord progressions and harmonies. But for the most part, Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know is by no means a successful album. The vocals are decent, but lack diversity, the instrumentals range widely from good to bad, and the lyrics are simply disastrous. As for the music as a whole, it passes briefly through interesting on its merry way to mediocre and beyond.

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One Response

  1. mìko says:

    idiot. yoooooooou.

    ”elec­tronic per­cus­sion that sounds only slightly bet­ter than some­one play­ing with the per­cus­sion patch on a cheap key­board”.

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