I got my hands on this one a few weeks back but in the hectic days of starting my new job I sort of neglected to post my review of it. So I'm here to tell you now, a bit late, that the debut full-length from D.C.'s Mittenfields is a remarkably astute and economical blending of post-punk, American indie, and Pixies-inspired near-punk.
Optimists opens with the blast of the title song which seems to suggest the best bits of Big Dipper before they signed to a major label. "We've Become Numbers" cranks along in a clattering rhythm that seems to recall Modest Mouse, while the wonderfully titled "Telepathic Windows" channels Built to Spill but then morphs into a full-on rager chocked with emotion. Dave Mann's vocals are great on this one.
With 3 guitarists -- Sam Sherwood, Michael Ball, and Donald Seale -- in the band it's hard to know who to credit for the unholy Nirvana-like squall that anchors "Goldmine" so let me just offer a collective "Thanks!" from this fan to all 3 dudes in the band. That cut is followed by "Mr. Hope" which features about 3 kinds of guitar noise backed by drummer Brian Moran's heavy beats on the kit. It's one of the more lyrical cuts on the record despite the noisy bits. Like The Pixies before them, the dudes in Mittenfields seem to have a firm grasp on how to harness chaos in the service of something hummable.
Optimists ends on the epic "Surprise Me" which melds another nod in the general direction of Built to Spill with something else entirely. There's a hint of Neil Young here in the guitar-work on display and the song expands and contracts admirably to sort of sum up the whole experience of this record.
Mittenfields produce loud music that straddles the worlds of influences like Sonic Youth and Band of Susans with more accessible indie rock in the manner of early Superchunk or The Arcade Fire. Optimists is a superb showcase for this band and I firmly believe that they are pushing D.C. punk in a new direction. But I'd still love Optimists even if this wasn't my hometown.