On their sophomore album, Rearrange Us, L.A. via Philadelphia indie rock band Mt. Joy explores themes of heartbreak and finding oneself in the aftermath of a breakup.
The first track, “Bug Eyes,” serves as an impressive album opener. The beginning instrumentals are otherworldly and ethereal, comparable to Hozier’s wistful sounds or the psychedelic rock sounds of Pink Floyd. Standout elements of the production include a strong bass line, which begins as the song picks up speed. As lead singer Matt Quinn reflects on his partner leaving, he reminds listeners to “always look forward” and hopes for “all your love to be returned.” He then exclaims that he “may have wasted all [his] time on fear,” and listeners can empathize with the experience of clinging on to fear and doubt for far too long in a relationship.
The title track, “Rearrange Us,” and track “Let Loose” both feature guitar chords reminiscent of John Mayer. “Rearrange Us” is simple and sweet but fails to provide the punch one would hope a title track to deliver. Similarly, “Let Loose” is a sleepy, forgettable track. Lyrics of wanting to get lost and loud with a lover are not reflected in the slow groove of the song. It’s not until the latter half that the song suddenly picks up, but even then, the build-up is chaotic and dizzying – and not enough to compensate for the mundane first half. Much of the album plays out this way; songs are either forgettable in nature, or begin quietly, only to drastically pick up tempo and volume.
The third track, “Have Faith,” is a short interlude oddly situated in the album. A typical indie folk song with both male and female vocals, it ends abruptly and serves as a questionable lead into the fourth track, “My Vibe.” This track could be mistaken for a Saint Motel song – featuring bright and airy production on piano and guitar. “My Vibe” is the dance track of the album – one can envision concert goers moving their bodies and head bobbing, just as the song indicates to “move until you feel better.” This track embraces feelings of sensuality and living in the moment as Matt Quinn lets his lover “slide up [their] hand” as he “let[s] go of all [his] plans.” As one of the strongest tracks of the album, this song is contagious and revives the project. A guitar solo towards the end of the track finds the band revisiting their strong suit – exciting rock production.
“Every Holiday” tells the story of a love falling apart during Christmastime. This form of storytelling is reminiscent of Father John Misty, particularly the lyrics of “look[ing] across the room” at one’s lover as their “eyes [sink like] balloons.” This song is another highlight of the album as the band successfully crafts a slow, meaningful ballad that isn’t sleepy or plain. Soft horns at the end of the song are a unique production element, solidifying the track as one of the best on the album.
After “Every Holiday,” it’s not until “Witness” that the band reaches a flow state again. The tracks preceding “Witness” don’t contribute much to the album sonically. The opening vocals of “Acrobats” are so dismal it’s hard to continue listening to the track, and the closing of the song is disorderly – there is a clear lack of structure. With “Witness,” the album reaches the pinnacle of its plotline – our protagonist has discovered his lover with another, and listeners feel for him. As the song builds up to the moment where Matt learns of his lover’s infidelity, feelings of heartbreak and disappointment are encapsulated in the instrumentals, while simultaneously conveying the hope one holds on to when first losing a lover. As the most emotionally charged and powerful song of the project, this is a special track.
The last four tracks create the statement, “Witness Us Become Strangers,” and the songs tell that story precisely. The last track, “Strangers,” is a well-done closing track. It’s freeing, hopeful, nostalgic, and upbeat. As Matt proclaims that he is over his ex, it’s easy to find oneself dancing along and feeling empowered. The act of putting oneself back together after heartbreak and learning to let go is encapsulated as Matt sings of having to “fall in love with strangers” to truly begin the process of moving on.
Although there is no doubt that Mt. Joy is a band of talented musicians who are passionate about art and the stories they tell, this album misses the mark of being a truly great, impressionable sophomore project. There are impressive moments to be found, but they are sparse and often times, not enough to make up for the mundane parts of the project. Lack of a clear, common thread sonically throughout the project, as well as within some of the tracks, prevents the album from being its best.