THIS WEEK Portland's Post Moves release their newest full-length, Mystery World Science Show. Its 12 songs of delicately moody guitar pop lazily but purposefully amble like a fat bumblebee buzzing from daisy to daisy.
Sam Wenc's campy, cerebral lyrics and Julian Morris' backing vocals are married to Americana-tinged melodies, sounding like the Grateful Dead's American Beauty slowed down to half-speed. Nathaniel Kornet's basslines and Morris' airily jazzy percussion add some buoyancy to what could easily skirt into jam-band territory. Wenc's guitar work is not unlike that of self-described "jizz jazz" musician (and self-proclaimed Dead fan) Mac DeMarco, but Wenc is a much more sympathetic storyteller—he soulfully coos existential lullabies like a stoned gondolier navigating channels of detached, half-conscious thought.
On the album's opener, "Romantic Dimwits," he sings, "When I go to sleep, I freeze/When I am kept awake, I thaw," in between lushly purring riffs and rolling bouts of drums. The track is ever-so-slightly off-balance—it mimics the feeling of nodding off into your soup at the dinner table before jolting awake.
Mystery World Science Show uses the surrealist language of dreams to whisper both silly and heartbreaking rumors about reality. This tone perfectly captures the golden state between sleep and consciousness, but also steadily builds an uneasy feeling of existential tension throughout the album. On the title track, Wenc muses about the mechanics of this "Mystery World Science Show" we're living in as he sings, "When we burn out/When we rust/We'll leave behind heat, exhaustion, and dust."
Slow-burning standout "Rhinestone Ledger" builds on the lonesome whinny of a pedal steel guitar as Wenc sings about a "country legend with a rhinestone ledger." He masterfully blends dry jokes with potent sentiments like he's behind the bar mixing you the strongest Shirley Temple—here he sings, "He's gotta a can-do 'tude/A bitchin' new pair of shoes/But the only thing that causes him any fright/What if life was just a Saturday night?" Like some cosmic cowboy crooner, he drawls, "All right Korn, take us home" and rides into the sunset on Kornet's epic bassline outro.
Another highlight is tongue-twister "The Undertaker Has Undertaken a New Undertaking," a dark, Neil Young-like folk song. A paranoid Wenc warns, "The undertaker has undertaken a new way of undertaking/In a choke or sleeper hold, he'll whisper/'You're getting old.'" The pedal steel returns, but it feels more harried and nervous than warmly nostalgic.
Like an unwilling awakening, Mystery World Science Show's weakest point is its ending. The final four tracks devolve into eerie nightmares; on "XO's" Wenc sings, "The shadow world comes to life/All the dark borders choke out light." "Dancers Unite" gives voice to a chorus of unfamiliar and monstrous voices, while once plush, comfortable guitar tones now bristle sharply. This wonderful dream has morphed into something ugly, and ends with the ballad "Disaster." These final songs aren't bad, they're just jarring—they lull you into a stupor before dousing you with ice water.
Post Moves has a string of lovely releases, but Mystery World Science Show easily tops them all. Wenc's darkly humorous lyricism pillow talks listeners to sleep but doesn't promise sweet dreams.