Review: Manu, Earth (Self-Released, 2021)

Poughkeepsie, NY's Manu looks to have been around for a few years now, but never crossed my path prior to their debut full-length, Earth, which was released back in September. I've actually been meaning to write about this outstanding nine-song/41-minute album for two months now, but life kept getting in the way. I felt it important to finally get around to it, though, because this niche of heavy shoegaze-soaked post-rock is incredibly "in" right now, and Manu executes the style to a level of quality far beyond a number of other new-ish groups that are actively receiving more hype than they deserve by comparison.

To my ears, too many bands of this nature are one-sided in an approach that's centered around excessive monotony. That's not the case here at all. You'll find quite a wide range of dynamic contrasts, from lush atmospheric passages to crashing waves of h-e-a-v-y distorted outbursts. And while the vocals do possess a certain "droning" quality, they're confident enough to really open up and soar, in general just taking a different/more direct approach than many of Manu's contemporaries—including the use of subtle vocal harmonies, etc. The songwriting strikes a similar balance between softer, low-key lulls and surging energy/catchy hooks. Earth would really be a standard to which I would point for other artists to use as an example of how to push for something more individual and above-average out of this semi-shoegaze pocket of alternative music.

Almost too succinct opener "Peru," for example, takes around 30 seconds to get going, but by the time that "chorus" hits about a minute later, you should already be getting that, "Shit, yeah, okay, they're onto something here..." type of feeling. And after the ebb-and-flow of the next two tracks, some of the album's finest full-force potential becomes clear during the hard-hitting/fast-rising "Overturned."

One of the longer selections, "Filter Theory" provides another strong example through midpaced and driving power that punches and pivots with lots of understated surrounding guitar textures and even a quick little melodic lead break. Then there's the way that "​​Yesterday's Faded" integrates rapid breaths of feedback into the main verse riff. Just brilliant! That's not the kind of thing you stumble across very often these days.

I mean, come on, this is just so much better than so many other present-day artists that are exploring within this realm of sound. If more listeners had higher standards and were less willing to accept mediocre adherence to formulaic principles, you'd probably be reading about this band via some hip record label or a much larger website than my own, so... like me, do your small part and spread the word if you like what you hear as much as I do!

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