Post-rock band Mogwai released their debut album “Mogwai Young Team” in 1997 and have yet to produce anything particularly bad. On occasion, their transitions are not as seamless as usual or their signature canons and crescendo end up castrated, like in their albums “The Hawk is Howling” and “Mr. Beast,” but as a whole, Mogwai is a rare gem of a band that sticks to their fundamentals and innovates only when their discography feels on the verge of bland and repetitive.
Their latest album “Every Country’s Sun” excels because it is the most Mogwai album they have produced so far.
The characteristic buildups and cool downs that are the cornerstone of their fourth full-length album “Happy Songs for Happy People” in songs like “Kids Will Be Skeletons” feature prominently in their latest album’s “Crossing the Road Material.” The emotive guitar focus of “Come On Die Young”’s “Punk Rock” finds new life in the titular song “Every Country’s Sun,” as the album builds up like an anthem and quickly fizzles out, akin to “Ether” from the 2016 album “Atomic.” This is all Mogwai playing exactly to their strengths, ensuring this is some of their tightest work yet. Of course in a genre like post-rock, the music is not always as important as the message the work tries to convey.
Although this album is the result of the band members sticking to what they do best, there are slight deviations that help it stand out. When “Party In The Dark” appeared on my playlist, I looked back at my open YouTube tab to confirm that a Google Pixel ad had not accidentally opened. After I clicked on the tab, my eyes stretched as wide as they could and I took a quick breath; lo and behold, Mogwai had produced a vocal heavy, indie-rock inspired song. Despite my surprise, the vigorous beat and angry guitar work acted as a much needed transition from the subtle, bass heavy eeriness of album opener “Coolverine.”
Mogwai makes fun of how gloomy their music can be (see the name of album “Happy Songs for Happy People”) and while “Every Country’s Sun” is no stranger to this despair, it provides a nuanced take on themes of isolation and anxiety. The pensive guitars in the beginning of “Crossing the Road Material” gradually rise into a fierce concerto of ostentatious drums, loud synths and a classic, prominent Mogwai bassline, before all dying into an ultimately solitary chord on the synth. The message that the song presents is that at the beginning and end of the day when you are lying on your bed, you are alone and vulnerable, no matter how exciting the rest of your day “crossing the road” is. That message seamlessly transitions into the lonely, percussion-less “aka 47,” which further amplifies that message.
Their portrayal of isolation throughout the album is more than just quiet cool downs. Unexpectedly near the tail end of the album comes “Old Poisons,” an angry rhapsody of furious guitar riffs and a bouncing bassline to accompany the snare drums. In stark contrast to the minimalist, ordered transition between “Crossing the Road Material” and “aka 47,” “Old Poisons” is rhythmically erratic and very metal. It’s a sound that evokes a specific pain of loneliness and its frustrations. “Every Country’s Sun” is a testament to the complexity of that pain.
“Every Country’s Sun” is Mogwai delivering exactly what they do best: a cohesive theme with tight orchestration.