Man Man's fifth album On Oni Pond, just released this past month (September 10th on ANTI-), contains the best of both worlds. It highlights the group's artistic growth, yet it never strays too far from the quirky original sound that has made the band so distinct. It's Man Man's strongest work to date.
The thing most striking about On Oni Pond is how polished the album is. It was produced by Bright Eyes member and Saddle Creek producer Mike Mogis. Mogis also produced Man Man's previous album Life Fantastic (released on ANTI- in 2011), and though this record isn't a far cry from Life Fantastic, it's definitely more melodic and hook-driven. I wouldn't quite call On Oni Pond pop, though a few tracks border on it. I would, however, say this album is by far the band's most mainstream. I could hear a number of songs from this record being played on Radio 104.5, or even XPN.
My favorite track on the album is the most mainstream of the bunch. With its bouncy piano crescendos, it's impossible not to be sucked into "Born Tight." The song is buoyant and soulful with a 60ish bebop kind of feel. But even though it seems like "Born Tight" is airy and light, Man's Man's trademark darkness is undoubtedly present. The chorus goes, "Mama Mama, Mama Mama Mama/ Can't help you now! / (Be brave!)" Considering how "Girls just wanna have fun!" repeats playfully at the end of the song, one can only imagine what frontman Honus Honus is referring to.
By the way, how awesome of a stage name is Honus Honus? With a moniker like that, you just *know* the band has to kick ass. I've yet to catch one of Man Man's shows, but the word is they're a blast to see live.
Unfortunately for me, the word must've gone all over town, because their October 30th show at the Union Transfer is already sold out. But keep your eye on Man Man's tour schedule. This is one Philly band you don't want to miss.