My Mouth is the Speaker - Landmarks
Record Label: Unsigned
Release Date: June 2010
I remember seeing My Mouth is the Speaker open for Koji and The Felix Culpa when I traveled to Ohio to visit a friend late in 2010. Hailing from the city of Akron, Ohio, My Mouth is the Speaker happens to be a five-piece alternative rock group that blends pop-tinged, sometimes off-kilter arrangements with a hefty helping of whirring effects and a spoonful of post-teenage optimism. Although I remember thinking positively of the band, I had pretty much forgotten about them until this record ended up in my mailbox. Considering it a second chance to get acquainted with them after such a long time apart, the opportunity to delve into this record a second time has reaped more than enjoyable results. With the band currently poised to record something in the near future, Landmarks shows a band certainly working at perfecting their craft, leaving us with high expectations for what might be coming our way in the near future.
The build-in of “It’s Fun to Do Bad Things” starts the album off on a slightly tacky note – I’m sure it sounded like a cool idea on paper – but when the choral-keyed verse kicks in, the grooves and melodies start piling up high. The chiming keys and funky guitar licks make for a fun jam, as does most of Landmarks. “Gravity (Gave Up On Me)” loops an oddly interesting keyboard riff beyond hugely lush guitars, while “The Impression You Leave” has an edge to it that is bolstered by spurts of noodling goodness slipped in the cracks of straight up jamming guitars. It only cements both the talent and strength of the guitars in this band that it is what seemingly sticks out the most from listening to Landmarks, as MMITS never really settles in one spot for too long within one track.
“Who’s Scruffy Lookin’?” shows a balancing act between soft and bombastic, as the band pulls back on the reins at points from melodic background wizardry and precision-point accents to focus a little more on the vocals – a move that makes sense on paper, but leaves an underwhelming feeling on the track. The fizzling fretwork continues in “Delta Chi (BRAH!)”, as a keys line churns in the background of energetic guitar punches and solidly laid out snare and bass concoctions. This is the upbeat track that might stick out of the best of the bunch, though that designation could be one of a few as MMITS excels at their craft when toying with rhythms and melodies inside of the shell they have created with their sound.
Some of these tracks fit in a little less though, as “Silk and Sandpaper” is a mid-tempo sizzler that takes away the sometimes spontaneous nature of the band and substitutes a fuzzed over structure that at times buried the melodic slathering of guitars in unsuccessful grooviness. “Striking Gold [In the Old West]” falls into the slow-jam category as well, but besides missing the target on the chorus, this round shows us everything the faster tracks have but in a slightly calmer setting that actually works in favor of the band.
As far as downsides go, I will be blunt to point out two prominent things that could use a little bit of work here: vocals and keys. It seems like both run circles around themselves rather than provide a whole lot of variation or strength. Sure, both have their moments where they have an opportunity to shine, but it would be nice to see more differentiation in the keyboard parts or perhaps more versatility in the vocal department – as the vocals here, heard in “Silk and Sandpaper” predominantly, are certainly not the strongest aspect of the band. While most bands seemingly follow a pre-designated formula and can only really improve by shying away from it, this is a prime example of a band who have something great, but just need to do some inner tweaking to maximize the core of their sound.
Though there are things worth noting to be improved, Landmarks has enough elements to make this record an enjoyable listen, even a year and a half after its initial release. With a consistent, yet enjoyable vibe and strong songwriting, this band has many of the pieces in place to produce a memorable, enjoyable record next time around – whenever that next time around ends up being.
Singer sounds so much like Gatsby's. Also agree with the SA comparison but not so much the Weezer one. I like single songs from this here and there but I can't listen to the whole thing straight through. Gets a bit grating.