Midnight Norma Lane, Moxy Kid EP
Caught wind of this band completely by accident a few months back and was utterly enthralled by their debut Moxy Kid EP, to such a degree that I found myself compelled to listen over and over and over again, skipping right back to the beginning of “Junkie” each time “Micro Maps Of Happiness” dissolved into rain noise.
Seriously, this may be Midnight Norma Lane’s first-ever attempt at glory, but their brand of shoegazer-y, heavy-lidded guitar rock hits dead center. There’re plenty of elements of classic ’90s dreampop, but that’s too limited a box for the band; rather, they’ve sucked in the whole range of ’90s rock and transformed it into something that’s both comforting and modern.
Take the drifting, hazy “Junkie,” for example, which starts off head-nodding and sleepy, like a song you just barely remember from late nights spent up watching 120 Minutes, but then sets the guitars on fire and steps back to just watch them burn. Something similar happens on “Dead Actress,” too, with Midnight Norma Lane playing things low-key and dark, coasting along beneath frontwoman Laila Mendoza’s pleasantly-downcast voice until about two-thirds of the way through.
That’s when the guitars explode, and it’s a fucking monumental moment; suddenly there’s this shifting, almost Deftones-like melody lurking beneath the tidal roar, threatening every second to escape from the speakers and trash the room. Jonah Perez’s drums pound and thunder, and the whole thing essentially swallows up Mendoza’s voice, letting it settle to the bottom of the sea like a forgotten, leaky message in a bottle.
“78SixSixSix” is more straightforward, less swooning and more flat-out rawk, but the ’90s touchstones are still there, as they are on “Stage Love,” which makes me think weirdly of The Toadies, for some reason. “Words Like Bones,” on the other hand, steps along more languidly, almost like a Phil Spector girl-group if it got lost down a back alley and ended up hooked on heroin.
Finally, there’s closer “Micro Maps Of Happiness,” which takes the dreampop influence and meshes it with serious, serious echoes of Moon Pix-era Cat Power. Mendoza mutters and croons in an impressively Chan Marshall-esque fashion, low-key at first but then kicking on the distortion to soar skyward once again before crumbling back down.
And then there’s me, sitting here with my head in my hands, ready to listen to it all over again.