by Jonathan Bannister (@j_utah)
When the iPhone came out in 2007 we marveled at the technology we could now carry in our pocket. It was going to change things and that it certainly has done. But here in 2019 it feels like that change hasn’t been all it was supposed to be. With our connection to the world we find ourselves disconnected from those around us. Hordes of people walk down the street, faces in their phones, barely paying attention to where they are. We have traded face to face for text to text, words for emojis, thoughts for catch phrases. Our phones in a way have become our modern mirrors and our mirrors can still tell us that we are the fairest of them all. There is no shortage of ways to find and curate our feeds to tell us exactly what we want to hear.
Drab Majesty’s 2017 album The Demonstration propelled the duo of Deb Demure and Mona D into the smoke filled light for those who crave the sounds of goth tinged synth pop. After some heavy touring in support of the album, including a couple of runs with Smashing Pumpkins and Deafheaven, the group went to Athens to escape and work on new songs that would become the album Modern Mirror, a concept album of sorts, telling a modern reworking of the myth of Narcissus.
After the circular, hypnotic opening of “A Dialogue” with its questioning tone regarding if we really know what love means, the duo come out synths blazing on “The Other Side.” Mona D’s synth work goes up another level on this album. The syncopated line makes quick work of pulling you into the song while Deb’s guitar rings out bright and true, working in compliment with the digital sound, creating a warm, full experience. They almost become representative of the times we live in, the analogue and the digital. There is that hope that it can all work so seamlessly, but the lyrics act as our emotional representative, reminding us we are still trying to catch up.
“Ellipsis” brings all of this into stark contrast. Musically it sounds like it’s ready to soundtrack a montage of a couple meeting and falling in love, but lyrically it tells a tale of disconnect, the struggle of trying to find love in a digital world where profiles are curated to the nth degree, where words are used but nothing is said. A text window can never replace hanging out. “Two modern minds won’t say what they want to” Deb sings over the driving drum beat.
“Oxytocin” is another standout from an album of standouts. It’s also unique in that Mona takes the vocal reigns, delivering an anthem on loving without abandon. For all our tech and advances, we still can’t outrun death. As someone once said, we’re all so scared of dying that we’re racing through life. “I’m not living for tomorrow, it’s not there” Mona sings. A plea to live in the moment, to exist in the experience of now. We know that nothing lasts forever, but we can enjoy it while it’s here. The song features some of my favorite guitar work on the album. Deb picks and rings out around the synth line, crying out the message of here and now.
Across the albums eight songs, Drab Majesty reinforce and build on their claim as one of the best at what they do. These dark tinged synth pop anthems are infectious, re-listenable, and relatable. “Does anybody understand these times?” Deb sings on album closer “Out of Sequence.” Modern Mirror leads one to think that Drab Majesty just might.