San Diego’s weather is famous for being an unchanging force, sun beating down on the coastline year-round, prompting many an East Coaster to relocate and eventually retire in the warm clime. But for the past couple of weeks, the moisture level in the air has been waxing and waning, clouds forming and dissipating, rain falling mere minutes before the sun peeks through a cumulonimbus. And as a result, my own blood vessels are left to expand and contract like moisture-infused wooden panels on a house, my resulting migraines acting as my personal barometer. All I can do is take some aspirin and find a musical distraction to help me while away these frustrated afternoons. As I lay alone on many an overcast Spring afternoon, I put on Bem-Vinda Vontade, the latest album by Mice Parade, anagramically known as songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Adam Pierce.
While the season seems to shift from winter to summer before my eyes, I fade into the complex arrangements of Vontade and let the music create its own imagery in my mind. As intricate guitar harmonies are deftly picked in the powerful opener “Warm Hand in Farmland,” it becomes apparent that Pierce is veering much closer to tropicalia, a style only previously suggested by the Portuguese title of his previous disc, Obrigado Saudade. This disc, as well, has a Portuguese title, apparently translating to the cryptic phrase “welcome will,” which is a little less awkward than the direct translation of last year’s effort, “obliged homesickness.” As Pierce’s modest voice floats over the guitar, the clouds seem to open up and let glimpses of light peek through my bedroom window.
But as “Nights Wave” queues up, the clouds merge once again, darkening the room as the song fires up a heady concoction of strummy Brazilian-influenced post-rock and shoegazer textures. Múm’s Kristin Anna Valtysdóttyr guest-coos on this track, which is apparently the “radio single.” Though on my own personal hi-fi, it’s getting regular rotation, I have yet to see it make its way to the “modern rock” charts, as they say. Conversely, the soupy mix becomes even denser with the fuzzed-out “Passing & Galloping,” a rock-centric track with a twinkling, dreamy intro. As something approaching Neutral Milk Hotel on a scale of accessibility, it’s one of Mice Parade’s most unusual tracks, though fairly straightforward by anyone else’s standards.
I begin to lose myself in the beautiful melodies of “The Days Before Fiction,” as it stretches on for 8 minutes, conjuring up a magnificent dream world in song. And by the time “The Boat Room” arrives, I’ve been so wrapped up in the Tortoise-like sounds of the former tracks that this almost Cure-like song comes as a surprise, though a welcome one at that.
As the summer approaches, the sweat beads up on my forehead and my cranial pressure loosens, I become less enraptured by daydreams and more concerned with the material inconveniences of hot weather. I’ll find myself parked in front of the air conditioner, focused on cooling my external body temperature. But I plan on keeping my copy of Bem-Vinda Vontade handy, as I may need a pleasant and graceful distraction from the ever-present sun.
Juana Molina – Tres Cosas
The Sea and Cake – Oui
Tortoise – TNT