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Mourn - Sorpresa Familia Music Album Reviews

Mourn - Sorpresa Familia Music Album Reviews
Label woes finally resolved, the Catalonian quartet gets its frustrations off its chest on its third album, showcasing a newfound maturity of songcraft without sacrificing youthful energy.

Mourn’s third full-length, Sorpresa Familia, arrives at the tail end of a professional rough patch for the Catalonian indie quartet. A year before the release of 2016’s stark Ha, Ha, He., the band went public with allegations of mismanagement on the part of their Spanish label, Sones, which Mourn accused of non-payment of income and holding the released album “hostage.” Since then, both parties have parted ways. Sorpresa Familia (which translates to “Surprise Family” in Spanish) is the resulting chronicle of the group’s frustration and eventual resolution.

Amid the lyrics’ allusions to lost investments, tour mishaps, and divorce, Sorpresa Familia conveys the kind of angry passion that comes with working through your shit. The album—unquestionably Mourn’s tightest and strongest release to date—is the latest and most aggressive progression in sound for these four very young people (co-vocalists and guitarists Carla Pérez Vas and Jazz Rodríguez Bueno, the band’s oldest members, were born in 1996). Their 2015 self-titled debut possessed a dark swagger, and Ha, Ha, He. moved Mourn’s sound into the colder territory of post-punk, but Sorpresa Familia cuts a distinctly punkish figure, the brisk pace bolstered by Antonio Postius’ ferocious drumming. There’s a level of unbothered confidence on display, which often comes from getting older and realizing your true strengths.

Mourn have previously shown that they know their way around a melody or two, but even by those standards Sorpresa Familia bursts with color. There’s a greater emphasis on melodic intricacy and detail, from the wistful, winding guitar lines of “Epilogue” to the rolling harmonies on “Candle Man,” which builds to the band’s biggest chorus to date. Even the stop-start lurch of “Doing It Right,” which in its closing seconds thrashes in a way recalling Danish punk heroes Iceage, is cut with guitar hooks that dart and weave like scrambling fighter jets. In their short careers thus far, Mourn have already proved that they can make urgent, punk-infused indie practically in their sleep. Sorpresa Familia’s strongest moments showcase a maturity of songcraft without sacrificing their youthful intensity.

The sole breather on Sorpresa Familia is the brief, haunting centerpiece “Orange,” a sub-two-minute cut that features just a few silvery guitars, Vas and Rodriguez’s distant vocals, and some controlled percussive explosions from Postius. It’s a lovely curveball that shows a different side of Mourn, and also recalls the similar versatility of 2000s Brighton rockers Electrelane. Throughout that band’s decade-long career, they continually refined their punk-meets-post-rock sound and consistently moved with ease between loud chaos and contemplative quiet. The songwriting on Sorpresa Familia suggests a similar trajectory for Mourn. If they could survive label hell to make a record like this, who knows what they’ll be capable of next time around.

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