Monoganon - Family (4 stars)

Second album of introspective and complex psych-folk psalms and alt-pop mantras

Monoganon - Family

(Lost Map)

‘What’s going on in here?’ asks Monoganon frontman John B McKenna in the opening line of his second album, F A M I L Y, as well he might.

This introspective, complex collection of psych-folk psalms and alt-pop mantras dedicated to love, and loss and awakening, seeks answers rather than offering them, and it’s all the more poignant, and precious, for it. Inspired by the death of a close relation, Glasgow-via-Malmö singer-songwriter McKenna ponders the meaning, and strength, of relationships and our proximity to those around us, as he explores and draws out the meaning of F A M I L Y – hence the title’s deliberate spaces – like silences, like the unknown, inbetween.

Monoganon’s 2011 debut LP, Songs To Swim To (Winning Sperm Party) was a thing of abundant prog-pop wonder, and this follow-up, recorded in Glasgow’s CCA, sounds rather more lo-fi and perhaps less immediate, but it is no less curious or affecting.

The album’s arrangements are warm, sympathetic and gripping, in no small part thanks to the rest of the band, namely bassist Susan Bear (also of thrift-pop heartbreakers Tuff Love), drummer Colin Kearney (of legendary math-rock shape-shifters Eska) and guitarist Andrew Cowan. Indeed, the four-piece’s intuitive, relaxed playing speaks of a lively family dynamic in itself, from the bucolic, woozy pop of recent single ‘Wasted Teens’, through the searing scuzz-rock of ‘Best Pals’ and the Grandaddy-esque distorted wig-out of ‘All You Need To Know Is Now’, to the classic song-writing of, say, Ed Harcourt (‘Easterhouse’) or Radiohead (spectral lullaby ‘Ivory and Tusk’).

If there’s a gripe, it’s that the vocals can be lost in the mix, especially when compared to the vivid sonic palette of Songs To Swim To. This may be intentional, of course – designed, perhaps, to evoke ghosts and half-memories – but McKenna’s voice deserves to be better heard. Nonetheless, this is a haunting album that rewards with multiple visitations. Hold it close.

Monoganon - Wasted Teens


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