The staggered beat we discover “Ulysses” sporting a little more than halfway through the tracklist of Magnet Monks’ Meet the Monks is indeed a bit tense and frustratingly pendulous in sports, but with the harmony it straddles, the emotionality it produces makes every hesitant beat feel special. There are a lot of working parts to this and really all eleven of the songs you’re going to hear on Meet the Monks this October, but if you’ve been feeling a little underwhelmed with much of the mainstream output in rock music this year, tracks like “Ulysses,” “Foxhole,” “Wild Horses” and “Circus” couldn’t be arriving at a more optimal moment than the present. Magnet Monks don’t try to change the game for themselves or the business here, but through their efforts, they’re definitely changing the trajectory for indie rock fans hungry for something new.
One can’t help but notice the genuine pop influences in the song structures of “Geronimo,” “Angels on the Bedside” and “Up on the Mountain,” but the production quality of Meet the Monks never devolves into the plastic nonsense common of many so-called alternative rock albums in 2020. Everything is mixed with efficiency and a mindful ear for the overindulgences that too often plague smart songwriters in eras of trending surrealism such as the present, and in the case of “Rockstar” and “The New Rome,” the barebones arrangement of the instrumentation only highlights how much unforced chemistry this power trio has inside of the studio (and likely outside as well).
I will say that the tracklist in Meet the Monks boasts a rather rocky flow indicative more of a retro LP than a contemporary alternative release, but this could be part of the reason why I found its edginess as unique as I did when going through all eleven of its songs for the first time. To some extent, the stylization clash between “Golden Cages” and “Over Our Heads” or “Rockstar” is necessary to yield a mixtape-feel to the diversity of the material, which is always more favorable than the out of sorts eclectic sound a lot of the Magnet Monks’ halfhearted rivals would just as soon put out to relative scorn from their peers and critics like myself the same.
A deep underground unit with a wealth of experience between them, Magnet Monks prove they still have something really big to contribute to the world in this present incarnation with the arrival of Meet the Monks, and if you haven’t already spent some time with the record this fall, I’d recommend doing so on the next possible occasion. The very term ‘alternative’ has lost a lot of its meaning due to unapologetic overuse by everyone from the media to the DJs playing new singles like “Foxhole” on the FM dial every day, but by distinguishing themselves from the crowd through aesthetics as much as they do muscularity, Magnet Monks make it hard to dismiss their work as anything other than a beacon of hope amidst seriously dark times.
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