Album Review: Momma – “Two of Me”
Posted: by The Editor
Los Angeles four-piece Momma, led by Etta Friedman and Allegra Weingarten, feels at first like they are stragglers within the broader indie landscape. Their music is akin to the likes of Snail Mail or Soccer Mommy – ‘90’s alt-rock tinged with the honesty and earnestness of early-aughts pop-rock. Perhaps they could have been a part of that crowd of indie stars had they released their new record Two of Me a few years ago.
This framing, however, falters with more attention. Momma has more punch and more darkness than their peers. Two of Me is a concept album: a creative move that can be tricky to pull off. It holds to the structure required of it, loosely, but enough to hold it together, even if you don’t pick up on the storyline on your own. Momma set themselves apart, proving they are adept at creating compelling character studies rather than just exercising their demons.
Momma didn’t manage to gain much traction from their debut, Interloper, but certainly deserves to with their new offering. Two of Me is full of some of the most cleverly constructed rock songs of the year, but still has a comforting familiarity to it. That could be a drawback for some, but, to music fans, it will just help to readily accept a great record.
Broadly, the concept at work here is of a purgatory known as the Bug House, where a few characters are sent after a brawl at a carnival. Weingarten and Friedman weave details of this not just in their lyrics, but by adding things like the spooky carnival music between “Double Dare” and “Carny.” The opener, aptly titled “Bug House” sets the mood for the record, with dark stormy guitar leads and a menacing tone to the vocals, describing our setting, as it is “fishing for new heads.” Its chorus is wordless, but all the better for it. All the pent up energy formed at the inception comes to a head and washes over you.
Momma makes it very clear that they are a force. This darkness is expounded on with “Biohazard”: an eerie song about a man suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder, who kills someone while under the influence of an altar. This man is sentenced to the Bug House, naturally, and we hear Friedman and Weingarten sing from the perspective of both sides of the man, noted only in the switch from “He” to “I” during the verses.
“Ready Runner” is a rare calm moment within the tracklisting. It’s volatile but sweet, much simpler in its construction, just guitar, a light, glowing organ, and vocals just above a whisper. It’s narrator repeats “ready when you are” and “don’t go running”, as if to say that she is uncomfortable with her counterpart’s actions but doesn’t feel strong enough to say anything for fear he’ll leave. Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the song though is how it interplays with the one right after it. After “Ready Runner” winds down, we’re hit with the uplifting build of “Not a Runner.” A song that ramps up the pace, but keeps most of the same instrumentation. Rather than focus on things we can’t change as “Ready” does, it’s full of stubborn confidence. The refrain of “did I fucking stutter? I told you I’m not a runner” comes off as humorous, but feels like redemption for “Ready”’s narrator. The one-two punch of these tracks feels like making a promise to yourself that you’ll try to do better, and quickly realizing that you’ve signed up for something harder than you thought.
Eric Bennett | @seething_coast
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