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Posted July 16, 2007 by Mike Mineo in Features
 
 

Shivers Me Timbers

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In the daring realm of pop music that is both otherworldly and unconventional, there are doubly-named modern bands like Man Man or Xiu Xiu that truly transcend the expected boundaries. They create a style of music that lingers in listener’s minds despite unpredictable song structures, lyrics that are often incomprehensible, and sounds from “instruments” that are most otherwise used as kitchen appliances or torture devices. It is a rare accomplishment when an artist can manage to juggle ingenuity and accessibility, resulting in a musical art that is seen to be too avant-garde for the mainstream but ingenious enough to gather a respectable fan base. Mass Shivers are the latest to try their hand in such an approach, implementing a diverse array of musical attacks in the eventual craftsmanship of their appealing sound. This eclectic five-piece based out of Chicago have enough finesse and creativity to emerge as one of the most original acts in a town that is usually known for its straightforward rock ‘n’ roll.

With such a local tag eluding them, “straightforward” is something that Mass Shivers certainly is not. Though lead vocalist Brett Sova often echoes a distinctively somber croon that is reminiscent of classic songwriters like Harry Nilsson or Jackson Browne, he can also recall the dramatic flair of quintessential 80s power-balladeers in the vein of Steve Perry if need be. However, despite their occasional nods to classic rock or even contemporary funk, the most notable aspect of Mass Shivers is their association to a melodic form that is bursting to the seams with a rash of unpredictability and boldness. Though Sova has a strong presence as the lead vocalist, Mass Shivers’ second album, Ecstatic Eyes Glow Glossy, is a concentrated group effort. Much like the extremely entertaining Man Man or Animal Collective, the pure energy of Mass Shivers allows for a type of instrumentation that could sound like anything ranging from a tribal dance to a funeral procession.

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While Mass Shivers’ instrumental arsenal is primarily limited to the traditional array of guitars, percussion, and organs on Ecstatic Eyes Glow Glossy, it is the method in which the five-piece utilizes them that is impressive. Apart from the rousing saxophone on the lively “Mossy Nethers”, the surprises on the album are more structural than instrumental. The excitable opener, “Womanizing Metal Studs”, is an immediate display of Mass Shivers’ knack for innovation. Using a guitar instead of the typical bass to power the rhythm section, Sova emerges into the song as a vocalist and guitarist who makes his presence known. Sounding like a vibrant rock star lost in the 70s, he rattles and rolls through each song with credible ease. “She’s a womanizing metal studs!” Sova howls as he introduces the first words to the album, “and insisted we don’t judge.” The same phrase is repeated throughout the song as Sova adds a few additional lines, avoiding any feeling of dull repetition as diverse instrumentation picks up the slack. As second-percussionist Dylan Ryan chatters backing vocals during the nearly indistinguishable chorus, a series of percussion establishes consistency and sound judgment. The three core members of the band (Sova, Sean Wilke, and Ben Mjolsness) all lend a helping hand toward percussion throughout the album; an instrumental aspect that never ceases to excite.

Barely over 28 minutes long, Ecstatic Eyes Glow Glossy is a concisely abrupt affair that leaves quite a lasting impression. The ironic ode to cremation in “Pacific Ash” and the experimental, feedback-oriented chant in “Quinine Peninsula Pt. 2” are further diverting examples of the sheer ability Mass Shivers has to transform a repetitious method into a fulfilling. Though barely any of the songs on Ecstatic Eyes Glow Glossy exceed three minutes, they all feel epic due to the band’s wildly ambitious approach. As their self-titled debut also displayed, Mass Shivers show no hesitation to create a sound that is both wildly imaginative and considerably enjoyable. Due for release on August 21st, Ecstatic Eyes Glow Glossy is an accomplished step-up both in terms of songwriting and diversity. Oh yeah — try to say the album’s name quickly five times.

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Mass Shivers – Womanizing Metal Studs

[audio:https://obscuresound.com/mp3/masss-wom.mp3]

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Mass Shivers – Mossy Nethers

[audio:https://obscuresound.com/mp3/masss-mos.mp3]

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Mass Shivers – Pacific Ash

[audio:https://obscuresound.com/mp3/masss-pac.mp3]

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Mike Mineo

 
I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound. I used to write for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine. Send your music to [email protected].