Experimentalism and catchy rhythms need not be mutually exclusive. For proof, look no further than Halifax four-piece Mauno's sophomore LP, Tuning. Many of these 14 tracks will not only leave you humming along — they'll also grip you with their unpredictable flourishes.
"Hand" is a prime example. It features Adam White's gut-punch drumming before the guitars settle into a rhythm that bobs and weaves. Midway, the guitar riffs go staccato and then the song ends with distortion that sounds like a short-circuiting Super Nintendo. It'll lure you in with irresistible accessibility before jolting you with moments of offbeat creativity.
Then there's standout "Other Bad," on which a guitar churns along gently but persistently before breaking into a sudden solo that meanders with patience and deliberateness that'll leave listeners hanging on every left-field note. An added bonus is bassist Eliza Niemi taking over vocal duties that are typically handled by singer and guitarist Nick Everett; she does so with aplomb here, employing perfect phrasing and hitting high notes with ease. Niemi returns to the microphone for "Anything Anymore," on which the creative surprises come from her lyrics, such as: "I don't want to smoke anymore… without you." Everett and fellow guitarist Scott Boudreau play along slyly, ably accentuating the themes of the compelling lyrics.
Which isn't to say Everett doesn't hold his own as the front. On the contrary, his singing is engrossing and snugly fits with Tuning's instrumentation. That's especially true on "Keys," which finds him using Thom Yorke-ish, melancholy coos on the chorus, while somehow also invoking Ron Sexsmith's speak-singy delivery in the verses. His vocals are accompanied by minimalistic, barely-there electric guitar strums at first, but when the drums and bass softly but firmly kick in halfway through, the tension thrillingly builds with it. It's just one of the many grooving, boundary-pushing songs on an LP that show Mauno are one of the Maritimes' very best young bands. (Idée Fixe Records)