Like a music box that suddenly realized it had vocal chords, and began to sing as well as tick away lovely refrains, Mermonte pitter pats out of nowhere across landscapes of nursery rhymes and French countryside. Releasing their first LP on Father Figure Records, the Danish based independent label recently started by Mimas frontman and Dad Rocks! mastermind Snævar Njáll Albertsson, Mermonte feels both foreign and wonderfully familiar. I feel like I have certain ideas in my mind when I hear about a “French Pop Band” but this self-titled release by Mermonte blows these prefixed notions out of the water.
The aching, tumultuous “Monte” is the perfect introduction for a band that relies on the synergy of their sound rather than focusing solely on vocals like many American pop bands tend to do. The vocals don’t even hit in this song until a third of the way through, beautifully setting up the track as a whole. “David Le Merle” follows a similar structure, placing the entrance of vocals again, late in the song, and using them more as just another noise than any sort of central fixture.
As someone who studied French for five years, I appreciate that some of the vocals, when they’re there, are sung in French. There is a crocheted sort of elegance in the way French words mesh in and out of rhythms with each other that English is incapable of capturing. But as someone who studied French now five years ago, it’s nice that there are English songs included as well. My favorite track might well be the second one, “We’re On The Same Way” that feels like a celebration of two hearts in tune, two minds in agreement.
I can’t really escape the ocean as a metaphor for these songs, partially due to the cover art which features a woman walking along the surf, right where the water and sand meet. That playful, beachy scene reflects a lot about how the album sounds as well. The music roars and swells, laps and falls into rip tides. Choruses and verses stretch out like beautiful beaches, littered with bright hints of glockenspiel like shells embedded in sandy shores.
Speaking of which, can I for one just say how happy I am that glockenspiels are used on this record? That funny little chirp of an instrument adds this feeling of birdsong to so many songs on this record. It creates a feeling that wouldn’t be possible.
But the acoustic guitar parts on tracks like “Jamie” or album closer “Filtz” bring their sound right back into the folk realm, as do their crystalline harmonies. This little record shines like a ray of sunshine on a white, barren beach, perfect for drives to the sea, quiet evenings alone, or to soundtrack a romantic dinner for two.