Marah in the Mainsail makes every song on their Last Triumph full-length, Thaumatrope, sound like the opening credits to a film about someone being murdered in the snow. This Minneapolis act takes the increasingly overdone jangly folk genre and pushes it darker and bigger than the likes of the Lumineers or Head and the Heart.
There’s a grim coldness to the proceedings of Thaumatrope which gives the album a patina of Halloween on the tundra. It’s spooky, to be certain, and song titles like “Your Ghost,” “Wendigo,” and “Graveyard” are but hints as to the bleak subject matter which resides within the lyrics. There’s a barely-contained fury in their catchy songs, and that sense of danger is acknowledged fully in “Wendigo,” with its opening lines of ““I keep a pistol under my pillow & rifle beside my bed.”
Marah in the Mainsail’s music comes pouring out of your speakers and fills the room with a bombastic rhythm. It thumps on each and every song, and stamping your foot in time will begin happening without any sort of conscious decision on your part — it’s just going to start, and you’ll need to just let it happen, because resisting is an impossibility.
The sextet’s music on Thaumatrope is excellent, but damned if I couldn’t have stood a few more songs which picked up the pace a bit. That thump’s pretty catchy, but just one rollicking run-through would’ve shown a bit more from these folk-rocking Minnesotans. The monotonic nature of the tempo wears after nine tracks.
The vinyl is warm and booming, and has a rather nice low-end, which doesn’t obscure the vocals nor the rest of the instrumentation. This could’ve easily tended toward the tinny, but it’s like the band’s in the room with you, rather than coldly isolated. There’s a moment toward the end of “Graveyard,” where vocals and brass combine into a swelling, enthralling chorus, and it’s magical.
Thaumatrope’s cover is nice and spooky, and but a little mysterious, but the top half of the tentacled tree is a little blurry and pixelated. If you’re going to blow up your artwork to 12” x 12” for an LP cover, get a proof printed before you send it off. It’s the difference between something cool and something verging on cheap and chintzy.
Also: liner notes, people. Liner notes. Seriously. If ‘80s punk bands could include a photocopied lyric sheet in their DIY 7-inch single, you can do it with your full-length LP on an actual label. Having to dig through an ever-growing list of websites to figure out who played on what is ridiculous.
Thaumatrope is available on vinyl from Last Triumph.