The Music Tapes’ Mary’s Voice, its first new album since 2008, is charming in its creation past times and imaginary places.
Mary’s Voice requires suspension of disbelief. Imaginary worlds tend to fall apart when their faults are picked apart, but the album can be transportive if listeners give it a chance. Thanks to the brilliant opening track, they're likely to.
Julian Koster, the main musician behind The Music Tapes, begins with an invitation. “The Dark Is Singing Songs (Sleepy Time Down South)” lulls listeners into a reflective state with weathered organ and weary horns. It primes the imagination by bringing it to a dream-like state.
The album moves between small puffs of sounds — carnival noises, snippets of melody — and grand ideas. The big moments are often accompanied by Koster’s melancholy and powerful wail.
Quieter moments — like the uneasy and enticing “Spare The Dark Streets” — are backed with trembling strings and singing saw. Koster’s famous saw work is as captivating as ever here. After the short intermission, the saw solo “Kolyada #3” once again lulls listeners back into Koster’s world.
Besides the opening track, “Playing ‘Evening’” may leave the biggest impression on listeners. It’s far more rambunctious than the rest of the album with lots of clashing and fuzz recalling Koster’s days in Neutral Milk Hotel.
Listeners may return to the real world a bit foggy headed, but they’ll look back fondly on The Music Tapes. Mary’s Voice is refreshing like a unexpected nap.
Mary's Voice is out now via Merge Records.