SINCE MOVING to Portland from Kansas City in 2012, Minden’s ascent in the local scene has been powered by classic funk, soul, and millennial lethargy, all in the guise of psychedelic pop. The band’s latest, Sweet, Simple Things, is a sexy brew that pairs well with copious intoxicants and the company of a romantic partner.
The nine-song record kicks off with the slow-burning pop gem “Real Sugar.” The title serves as a possible innuendo, as frontman Casey Burge and vocalist Lia Gist either lament the absence of authentic soda pop or slyly yearn to share sweet intentions with a classy partner. It’s a fun, peppy tune, even pocked as it is with some minor-chord digressions. Burge has emerged as one of Portland’s finest writers of saccharine melodic fantasies, so in either case it’s a winner.
Throughout Sweet, Simple Things, narcotic swells of percussion, funktastic low-end, and choppy rhythmic phrasing from guitarist James Taylor set the tone for Burge’s lovelorn sexcapades, which often come replete with unabashed cosmic flirtation and matter-of-fact come-ons. They’d probably like you to think that sentiment is subtle, but it’s not, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
“Artist Statement” has a more sinister air, with dark keyboards dotting a Prince-esque menagerie of instrumentation, again with plenty of percussive thrust, as Burge courts a “sweet Latvian queen.” It’s another in a slew of sexy songs ready-made for the bedroom, the dance floor, or wherever else people feel like getting sensual.
The startling clarity of Burge’s songwriting is enhanced in the moments when Minden is less overt in their mating dances. “Love Is Bad” is the most lucid and revealing track on the record, needing little more than sparse guitars over a simple rhythm to create a radio-ready ballad. Burge’s forlorn hook of “You found out my love is bad” comes after a flurry of sentimental reminiscences, including, “I did some sweet things, and I was good to you,” “I made you sad, and that was wrong,” and “You gave me everything that you’ve ever had.” Gone is the swagger with which Minden’s songs typically stroll, leaving a vulnerability that enhances the record and gives the band more heart.
All the bravado in the world can’t save everything. But in the end, it really is the sweetest, simplest things that make Minden’s new record a success.