As a band that’s made up of a double bassist, a mandolinist, a violinist, a cellist and a drummer, you might expect Miracles of Modern Science to make music that is more suited to a hoe down than a rock show, but MOMS’ music is suitable for any kind of upbeat affair. There’s a certain amount of hokiness that comes with this territory, but rather than try to avoid it, MOMS embrace it fully, and in doing so have created an extremely lively and funny album.
It is that more orthodox of instruments, the drums, that drives the music across Dog Year, but every other instrument is essential in making the songs as bright and colourful as they are. The cartoonish vibe of the album is played from the off with a lead off track named “MOMS Away!” like the opening credits of the album. And, in a way it is, since we are instantly introduced to everything that is great about Dog Year: the thunderous undercurrent of drum and double bass, the incessantly intriguing noodling of mandolin and violin and of course Evan Younger’s quirky lyrics, both goofy and earnest simultaneously (“Secret machines inside it seems, draining the marrow from my bones / I think that I see that not unlike me, they’re just afraid of being alone” goes the chorus).
Although this is basically the way that practically every song on Dog Year plays out, MOMS have a few more tricks up their sleeves. “Tensity” is exactly that, tense, switching from the quietest moments of the album to the loudest, with every string seemingly plucked and bowed with utter ferocity. On tracks like “Quantum of Solace” MOMS show that they can also have success in restraint, bringing the heartbreak to life. But, MOMS are at their best when they’re simply rambunctious, and this is done best in the double-header of “Space Chopper” and “I Found Space.” In both of these songs MOMS’ imagination combined with their instrumentation takes them to weird alien worlds, and they seem to be more happy and at home there than anywhere else.
Dog Year is packed with tales that encompass various genres from childish fables to Vonnegut-esque science fiction. And then of course, there is the secret track, which I won’t spoil for you here, but I will say that it makes The Decemberists’ “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” seem like an adorable bed time story in comparison.
“Unique” is a word that is thrown around plenty in music journalism these days, and while in many ways it could be applied to MOMS, the truth is that it seems that striving to be unique never even crossed their minds. Dog Year is an album that sounds as though it has been borne purely out of enjoyment of making music, and that joy resonates from every song. From the rhyming dictionary couplets (“You will meet a typhoon / on the surface of the moon”) to the unabashed garishness of some of the choruses, it’s rare that you find an album so happy to put itself out there caring not that there are so many places that someone could nitpick. And, Dog Year is all the better for it. Next time you want something that is simultaneously easy listening and exciting, look no further than Miracles of Modern Science.