New Orleans band Mutemath have returned with their first studio album in four years, featuring songs like “Composed” and “Remain” that are surprisingly tender compared to something like 2006’s “Chaos”. Piano melodies rise and fall underneath Paul Meany’s wavering vocals, the whole setup beautiful, but threatening to collapse at any minute. Even the more upbeat tracks (“Joy Rides”, “Best of Intentions”) are still pretty easygoing. Vitals is not quite synth pop, though it bears the markings of electro influence. There’s no heavy percussion to speak of and because of this it has a very minimalist feel. That’s not to say that Mutemath is holding anything back on this record – indeed, quite the opposite. The album is full of love songs, and lyrics such as “We just grew up having to find out that hearts go astray, sparks slip away/But I have to say, I still light up for you” are reminiscent of The All-American Rejects – trite, but honest. This album isn’t rehearsing its lines in the mirror to make sure it gets them right, it’s standing underneath your bedroom window at two in the morning on impulse. Mutemath have grown a lot since their formation in 2003, but Vitals shows us that the four-piece group hasn’t lost sight of who they are. Each song is not a cautious step but a calculated leap in a new direction, though fans will appreciate their commitment to precise, passionate playing.
Vitals is an album that stands out on the band’s decade-plus timeline. Their discography is certainly impressive, with releases like Odd Soul and Armistice being considered some of the best in alternative rock of 2011 and 2009 respectively. At no discredit to their past efforts, this album takes their sound to a more mature, distinctive place. The music is genuine, if a bit messy, and though it’s airy and light it still manages to hit you where it hurts. While they could have laid it on us a little harder (a few guitar riffs never hurt anybody), Mutemath have managed to record something that’s going to be talked about for years to come. With the release of Vitals, the landscape of indie rock has never looked better – “Everything around is beautiful, everything around is love.”