Independent release, 2009

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


New York-based MEM’s debut Archaea is not an obvious masterpiece. But it has a strange power to make one’s “complete” music collection appear somewhat lacking, creating a sort of nonexistent void that only it has the power to fill.

MEM redefines pop music without trying to alter it completely, respecting the level of perfection that this genre has already attained. An example of this is the simplicity with which they executes the flawless pop song “Dip Me In,” taking the basic ingredients of a catchy tune – a delectable chorus and uplifting beats – and not messing with them too much. When the band does tweak the basics, the results aren’t less catchy either; just a bit more sophisticated and less buoyant (“The Worst Is Over,” “The Trenches”).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Whether or not some of the band members are NYU jazz students, as an indie-pop outfit, MEM gets truly audacious when they make the egregious move of helping themselves to the use of the vastly abused effects of auto-tuning for singer Grayson Sanders’s vocals on “Leave It Up To Me.” And while these days just about everyone that thinks they can sing and aspires to a career in music seems to be using this dreadful tool with varying degrees of horrifying results, to actually make this appalling vocal enhancer work as wonderfully as it does in this case takes some serious guts on the part of these guys, which is commendable.

Without being too rustic or too mawkish when they incorporate beautiful folksy strings to enhance their very svelte, citified pop arrangements (“My Own Demons,” for example), it shows another facet of the band’s confidence that prevails throughout the record.

The music on Archaea, though simple in concept, shows all signs of the persnickety in the studio, exhibited in perfection. Even the plain pop-rock guitar tunes (“The Trenches” and “I Just Can’t”) are outfitted with an existential instrumental – “Fleur #2” – that isn’t bound by a conventional song structure. The attention to detail shown by MEM says as much about their creative ability as their dashing spunky flair.

With the lush melodic compositions on Archaea, the keyboards are given as much precedence as the guitars. And Sanders’s mellifluous vocals complete the music with an equally sweet accompaniment. Together, the band makes something as simply pleasant as guitar-pop actually sexy and more charismatic. All it takes is just one spin of this record to realize what is amiss in pop music today.

Rating: A

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