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Posted on October 14th, 2013 (7:25 am) by Nick Manai

Everyone likes a back story to compliment an album. Even better if it is the story of an underdog struggling against discouraging odds, stacked against them by the record industry, to release their debut album. In one sentence this is the story behind Mirror Travel's sort-of debut album Mexico, but in all actuality it is a slightly less melodramatic set of events. Mirror Travel hail from Austin, Texas where they were formerly known as Follow the Bird. Over the course of four years Follow the Bird was able to pick up a significant amount of indie rock momentum in a city that is nearly bursting with young indie buzz bands. First, they were hand picked by indie titan Matador Records to contribute the lead single to the Austin-bands-only compilation Casual Victim Pile. They opened for Bill Callahan for a stretch and then were chosen to open for ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead's full Western US tour.

Though the band was ready to return to the studio, their label folded, taking with them the money promised for Follow the Bird's next record. It could have been a career ending blow, but if the early press for Mexico and the songs themselves are any indication, Mirror Travel do not appear particularly disheveled or motivated to detail their experience. It seems Lauren Green (vocals/guitar), Tiffanie Lanmon (drums) and Paul Brinkley (bass) have simply changed their name, found a new label (Modern Outsider) and now have a new record. Or as Lamon put it, "We had to walk into the desert and do things our own way." Points for resiliency are certainly in order.

It would be convenient to see Mexico's title alluding to a trip beyond the boarder full of escape and excess like a specific scene in Jack Kerouac's On the Road. But if anything, the record's title track details the the hard work that must predate the journey. Green's lazily slurred vocals ask us in jagged lyrics to "stay busy" and "dig holes," all in an air of preparation. What that it is we are preparing for is never quite revealed. The rest of the album seems to follow suit, not pounding a battle tested ideology or explicitly chronicling the long road Green and co. have earned the right to sing about. Mexico shares the same themes as other sun-dried female punk bands: love, rejection, youth, parties, and, oh yes, definitely summer.

Mexico opens with a breezy two-minute instrumental reminiscent of Summer Sun era Yo La Tengo. It is the sound of a rainy afternoon walk, but where Yo La Tengo has ambition to try to blend the sound of their instruments with the echo of nature, Mirror Travel never deny that these are the sounds of guitar bass and drums. It makes for a lovely, if predictable opening.

"I Want You To Know" charges ahead with the kind of dark punk grooves that marked Savage's excellent 2013 release Silence Yourself. Green's vocals on Mexico are much more subdued, recalling Kim Gordon or even Ian Curtis. "Parties" establishes the band's sound alongside the many female fronted pop punk bands of recent years like Vivian Girls and Bleached. Behind a chugging drum beat and jangling guitars, Green paints an evocative scene where "Everyone's drunk and everyone's sleepy." The eerie texture of the song communicates the bands distance from this party as much as Green's prideful declaration, "I found a place where no one goes!" These songs do not exhibit the kind of heart-on-sleeve lyrics that made Best Coast so popular and accessible but they do manage to convey an ambiguous sense of despair and triumph.

"Pinholes" extends into a nearly six-minute Deerhunter-esque guitar trance that finds the band playing with repetition and tempo changes. The grungy noise of "Pinholes" is met by the bands cleanest riff on "In Dreams for Summer," a song that finds Green's vocals at their most melodic and more in line with 10,000 Maniac's Natalie Merchant then a direct punk influence.

That Mexico was released at all is an impressive feat. That it is not filled with trite moralizing about the bands personal tribulations is commendable, but the lack of indulgence into the more extreme circumstances that must have surrounded the album's recording robs it of some of its excitement.

Track List:
1. Sands
2. I Want You to Know
3. Mexico
4. Parties
5. Uncharted Waters
6. Pinholes
7. In Dreams for Summer
8. Wooden Bones
9. Young Gold
10. Stoner

Mirror Travel: Mexico
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

71 / 100
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