For over a decade-and-a-half, mewithoutYou have been unleashing their sonically rich, idea-stuffed post-hardcore upon the world. Lashed together by frontman Aaron Weiss’ esoteric, impassioned lyricism and vocal performances and bolstered by a bass-heavy barrage of post-whatever instrumentation, the band’s tales of existential malaise, religious wrangling, and apocalyptic dread have transfixed their devoted fan base time and time again. But it’s been nearly three years since we’ve had new material from the band. 2015’s Pale Horses was a more subdued, sonically lush affair that was epic in scope, but could honestly be critiqued as missing some of the band’s signature bite. Enter [Untitled] and its accompanying EP, which present the band’s most languid and intense sounds in a manner as representative as any release in their career.
The shorter of these two releases, the [untitled] EP, follows the blueprint of Pale Horses by presenting guitar-heavy, simplistic (and not in a negative way) instrumental compositions that allow Weiss’ deeply felt lyrics to take center stage. From the get-go, mewithoutYou has always been about Weiss and his internal life, and this EP is no different. “Bethlehem, WV”, “Dirty Air”, and “Existential Dread, Six Hours’ Time”, much like the cover art for this project, swirl with concentric harmony over Weiss’ musings on place, time, mental health, and the growing reality of life’s more ominous trajectories as age takes hold. It’s a familiar and welcome return to the themes and sounds that make the band accessible and, at times, deeply profound.
But if the EP flows smoothly and languidly through its set of tracks, subsequent full-length [Untitled] blows the roof off the place, wielding an intensity from its opening moments unseen by the band since [A→B] Life. Weiss is simply ferocious at points in his vocal delivery (“9:27a.m., 7/29” and “Wendy & Betsy” being standouts in this regard), imbuing the music with a sense of dread that feels like it’s laid dormant in the band’s collective subconscious for years. It’s a cathartic release that is filled to the absolute brim with good ideas. “Julia (or, ‘Holy to the Lord’ on the Bells of Horses”) is one of the best and most memorable tracks the band have written in some time, while finale “Break on Through (To the Other Side) [Pt. 2]” is as soft and deeply personal as Weiss has ever been. It’s a fantastic mix of the band’s most contemplative and vicious tendencies, resulting in one of the best records of the year.
If you’ve been waiting to give mewithoutYou a fair shake, there will never be a better time than now. Both of these releases highlight the best aspects of the band while pushing their sound into territory that, while familiar, is a welcome return to their top form. Post-hardcore fans will be hard-pressed to find a better set of songs released this year.