This Portland (Oregon) three-piece have spent the past 10 years doing a nerdy high-wire act using heady, patchwork writing to create accessible albums — layered math rock somewhere in the shadow of the Flaming Lips. But they might just be getting tired of it. "I'm showing my age" goes the mantra on their fourth full-length, as the brooding guitars, steamboat bari sax, and sleigh bells return to round off the edges on another set of jagged compositions.
In a lot of places, in fact, the edges get rounded off too well. Opener "Queen Black Acid" enters on sparse strumming and junk-set drumming, like a rural Soft Bulletin outtake, and the lackadaisical vocal melody seems intent on steadying the course as layers pile on. Menomena do the musical-shadowbox approach better than anyone, really. But the details are stacked on in such neat pieces — background piano arpeggios here, a couple of skronking guitar notes there — that it's all reduced to very well executed window dressing.
The street-noir horns of "Five Rooms" and "Oh Pretty Boy, You're Such a Big Boy" are the exceptions, echoing Herbie Hancock synths off walls of piano, syncopated sax and vocals, and pinpoint '70s cop-funk drums. The aged and world-weary vibe that weighs down on the other tracks breathes easily from these two.