It’s no surprise that mewithoutYou’s most recent album, “Brother, Sister,” offers a heady dose of unusual and unsettling music, but this album is still beyond this band’s typical realm of shouted poetry and spoken-word intensity. The first two albums, “[A–>B] Life” and “Catch for Us the Foxes,” both possess a capturing sense of closeness, with detailed, poetic lyrics and a clear struggle to gain control over life’s many situations. However, “Brother, Sister” seems to take that emotion a step further.
In this album, singer Aaron Weiss seems to unlock a slightly darker side to his already mystifying observations on both the simple and complex things that put life into perspective. With thick metaphors and even thicker analysis, Weiss weaves the stories of lost sailors, curious children and confused adults into an almost seamless quilt of human existence. The opening phrase, “I do not exist,” is uttered at the very end of the record as well, but the mood changes dramatically in the two identical statements. From “Messes of Men,” the listener gets the impression of man’s hubris while also discovering how clouded our view of this world actually is. It’s a song about the sea, but it is quickly seen as a metaphor more than anything else. From there, the listener goes through a kaleidoscope ride of images, including God’s fury, His love, and the blessing that this life can bring.
It’s hard to describe the purpose of this record as a whole, but the interlude-like songs that join together the different major sections of this album tend to put out a very apparent picture of our curiosity, the contrasting view of our right to this world’s treasures, and the final picture of our dying days. In between, we see our struggle with the concept of freedom (the metaphor of the peacock in the zoo in “A Glass Can Only Spill What it Contains” is especially poignant), our hope to coax others into our control (“C-Minor”), our fear of damnation, and our consequent realization of God’s ultimate power over us. It’s about faith, it’s about acceptance, it’s about objecting to the wrongs of the world, and it’s about finding love in all things.
But that’s just the lyrics. The music itself is exploratory and introspective at the same time, reaching to new realms with its instrumentation, but without leaving the comfort of the band’s typical formula of build-and-release. However, the shout-out-loud feeling that the past albums held has been hushed slightly, leaving only a couple truly high points in the music that go beyond a completely chilled volume, including the ending of “C-Minor” and the close of “O, Porcupine.” This may disappoint some listeners, but the album shows so much growth and development as a whole that no one can fault mewithoutYou for trying something unique. Still, fans of the old albums should feel comfortable with this one for its use of melodic layering, intimate arrangements and focused lyrics. It’s almost trance-like at times, leaving the listener drained by the time the final track fades out with a softly plucked harp.
But the message is clear: find hope and love in the world, knowing that God is the ultimate being, leading our lives into the right places through His love and passion for us. And this is what comes of the last few lines:
“I do not exist,
Only You exist,
I do not exist.”