There’s a palpable energy simmering under Candela, the new album by adventurous New York band Mice Parade. Listening to these songs, I could almost see multi-instrumentalist and band mastermind Adam Pierce smiling as he jumped from influence to influence, genre to genre, sometimes within the confines of a single song. In this sense, the album works a bit like Quentin Tarantino’s films do. It’s the creation of someone who’s clearly in love with the act of making music.
Candela is the seventh record from Mice Parade, a project that Pierce launched in the mid-1990s. (“Mice Parade” is an anagram of Pierce’s name.) The band’s music has always been a melting pot, with post-rock rhythms, shoegaze textures and world-music accents playing prominent roles. Pierce, who recorded and mixed Candela in his home studio with Jeremy Backofen, continues to bend and blend genres on the new record, but he also displays a keen sense of song structure and craft. This is Mice Parade’s “pop” album, as Pierce has said in interviews.
The album opens with the droning, gauzy track “Listen Hear Glide Dear”, highlighted by the ominous sound of militaristic drums pounding in the distance. Then comes “Currents”, the first of many tracks to exhibit Pierce’s restless sense of exploration. It begins with a chiming keyboard tone, followed by a searing, metallic guitar that squeals off and on throughout. A jazzy rhythm section propels the song forward, and guest vocalist Caroline Lufkin, who lends her distinctive high-pitched croon to a number of tracks, tops the song off with a pretty vocal.
The mix-and-match experiments continue: “This River Has a Tide” combines ghostly keyboards, fuzzy blasts of shoegaze guitar chords and back-and-forth vocals by Pierce and Lufkin (not to mention a quick acoustic-guitar-based interlude in the middle). “Pretending” rides wonderful rolling drums and a chorus that borders on anthemic.
My favorite tracks on the album are “Gente Interesante” and “Contessa”. The former begins with a skittery, halting rhythm. A subtle guitar fill adds a Latin touch midway through, then the song full-on explodes into a samba groove, complete with piano and trumpet. The latter pulls off a similar act of transformation, starting as guitar-driven indie folk and ending with jazz-and-funk-drenched organ.
Is Pierce just showing off here, congratulating himself on his musical erudition? I don’t think so. There’s a feeling of celebration in these songs, a sense that, you know what, mixing musical ingredients from across time and space isn’t just clever, but also pretty darn fun. In the end, I felt exhilarated by all the seemingly-out-of-nowhere stylistic shifts.
It should be said that this album would be stronger if Pierce spent more time refining his singing and lyrics, which seem, perhaps unsurprisingly, like afterthoughts. Still, Candela is loaded with the kind of bracing, unpredictable pop music that a listener can find something new in again and again.