Rojo’s Album of the Year: Man Man – On Oni Pond

This is my first album review.  I listen to enough music to write on ton of groups, but there are few new works that inspire any of that.  However, I plan on writing more on music in the future as it is my major passion and I am quite opinionated about it.  That said, this is my pick for album of the year.  The band is a group from Philidelphia, named Man Man.  The album, which was released at the end of summer is called On Oni Pond.  Until two years ago, I had never heard of the group.  Shortly after I moved to Sacramento, my good friend said he was rolling through to see a band and wanted to crash at my pad.  Of course he could, though he did leave his girls monstrous bra on my couch.  Bastard.

At any rate, I youtubed up some of their songs and agreed to go.  Thank goodness to betsy I did.  These cats were wild.  Their stage setup was unique as I am used to seeing the 2-3 guitar players in front and the drummer in back.  Instead their ivory player and lead singer, Honus Honus, sits perpendicular to the audience.  The drummer, Pow Pow, faces Honus directly.  They sit at the front of the stage, while the other three band members stand behind them.  They use a wide range of instrumentation, many switching up instruments mid song.  You have to see it to believe it.  I was blown away by their live show.  They came on stage and rocked the house without saying anything to the crowd.  For having two seated musicians, the show was incredibly engergetic and one of the best shows I’ve ever witnessed.  They were as tight as Donald Trumps butt hole and had obtained a fan for life.

On Oni Pond was released in September on Anti Records.  The album starts out with a short gloomy instrumental named “Oni Swan” which sets the theme of the album.  “Oni Swan” ramps up and leads directly into the upbeat jam “Pink Wonton.”

“And our hearts are cunning
(Like a lizard in the sun)
When they want something
(Like poison, pink wonton)”

“End Boss”, the third track on the album, is a laid back funky groove with a supported by a group of horns and what sounds to me as a marimba.

“if you won’t reinvent yourself
you can’t circumvent your hell”

There is no easy way to describe the bands style other than eclectic, as exemplified on their fourth track “Head On.”  You can view the video on the top of this post.  The jam is a catchy, doo wop feeling jam.  Once it gets in your head, you can’t help but sing it the rest of the day.

“And I need new skin for this old skeleton of mine
Cause this one that I’m in has let me down once again over time”

After that, the band takes you in a totally different direction with their dub styled groove “King Shiv.”  This is a jam that just makes you want to nod your head.  Even the dubstep styled breakdown is done with tact and precision.  I’m not a fan of dubstep whatsoever, but I feel like the utilization of certain elements can really add to a song and “King Shiv” is a great example.

“Loot My Body” is another upbeat catchy jam.  It’s also hilarious.

“Feel free loot my body
Just take whatever you want
But please don’t start a band”

The following jam throws yet another turn in the stylistic approach to the album with an acoustic song named “Deep Cover.”

“Deep cover
Is not a place it’s a state of mind
To have your heart go incognito
And hide away for a while”

“Pyramids” is another funky groove with heavy marimba.

“I know just what you are
It’s not a Burmese pony
It’s not a dying death wish
Or a child that’s raised by Kony”

Although difficult to choose just one song, “Sparks” would be my favorite groove on the album.  It’s another jam that touches on a doo wop style.  I was listening to it last night and it made me think of Ace at 80proofOinomancy.  In particular, I thought of this post.

“Paul’s Grotesque” is a slinky jam with Honus throwing his bedroom voice, or “I’m going to lock on you my basement voice” into the mix.

“She squeeze the honey bottle
On an over-ripe tomato
Don’t care when all the ants go
Right up her skirt”

“Fang’s” is another favorite of mine. Pow Pow lays down a mean drum riff that has a latin flavor to it.  Yet another catchy groove on an album that already caught me red handed in admiration.

“When she was young she held a fantasy
Of being the female Steve McQueen
Careening an ancient motorcycle
Through the throngs of those she hates”

The twelfth track on the album features solely Honus singing and playing keys.  It’s feel is reminiscent of the piano riff on their jam “Piranhas” from their album Life Fantastic and reminds me of “Doo Right” off Rabit Habits.  However, “Curtains” makes me feel like it should be sung by someone tap dancing across stage with wild gestures.

“You might somehow be redeemed
Even though your heathen days are long gone
And the need to be redeemed is such a boring thing to want
Caved in, hibernating, waiting for the sun
To come along and dry you out and hang you from a cloud”

“Curtains” seems to lead perfectly into the final track on the album, “Born tight.”  The lyrics make me think of the sphere, and of emotional disconnect that seems rampant in a lot of it’s writing.

“Build a fortress up on a hill
Find a love that fits the bill
Sometimes it never will
So you burn it down and you notch the kill”

The final verse in “Born Tight”  goes

“Girls just wanna have fun, be brave.”

My skills in describing this album are lacking so I hope the music can speak for itself.  The unique style of sound is a giant burst of fresh air in a time where most music is either tepid or terrible or both.  The entire album is an ear worm and worth a play through of it’s entirety every time.  That’s a rarity these days.  Lyrically, this album is enthralling due to the familiarity of emotion in each song.  The tragic desperation with a hint of hope in each song is something that resonates deeply with me.  Honus can convey strong romantic sentimentality and still sound like a man doing so, instead of channeling some waif like emo knob.  All the men in Man Man are fantastic multi-instrumentalists.  I can’t recommend this band and this album enough to do it justice.  If they are coming through your town, do yourself a favor and catch them live.  You will not regret it.  If you dig it or don’t let me know in the comments.

~Rojo

You can pick the album up through this link and help buy me a drink.

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