[18 July 2014]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
This has got to be a first. You’ve heard of albums being remastered or remixed that are celebrating a 10th, 20th, 30th and so on, anniversary, just so fans can shell out money all over again for the same album with cleaned up sound. How about an album that was released ... last year? Nona’s Through the Head appeared in 2013, but it’s now being re-released with new cover art, a new label and a new sound: it was both remixed and remastered. So, um, that was fast. Whatever the reason behind the re-release, this Philadelphia-based trio rocks out with swinging ‘90s alt-rock abandon. And female vocals. Opening track “Now and Then” starts out as a swell amalgam of the Lemonheads and Superchunk, and then lead vocalist Mimi Gallagher opens her mouth. And you’re instantly transported to the land of twee.
Needless to say, Gallagher’s vocals are an acquired taste (there have been comparisons made between the band and that dog), but they tend to get better and more expressive as the album goes along. Or maybe you just get used to her pipes. Whatever’s going on there, at least Nona is a band with musical muscle. These 12 songs bristle with an infectious energy, and I saw a comment on Soundcloud comparing the band to a poor man’s version of the Breeders, which is slightly off the mark and slightly accurate at the same time. Happily, though, this is a record that doesn’t have a weak song, and simply just rocks out in the most pleasant way possible – in a ‘90s sort of way. You just have to get around the fact that Gallagher’s vocals might not be right for you, and that’s something that’s not going to get cleaned up no matter how much you remix or remaster this record. You’d probably have to re-record it with a different singer. Still, Through the Head is pretty sweet, in more than one way, and should expand the group’s core fanbase. For longer term fans of Nona, well, it all boils down to this: do you want to pay all over again for a record you already bought last year?