by Zoë Elaine (@SawdustandGin)
Great persuasion doesn’t rely on qualifiers. It is subtle, and needs no emphasis. Unfortunately, Canadian four-piece Mauno haven’t mastered this skill, at least not according to their newest album, Really Well. It is the band’s third full-length, and, especially compared to their preceding effort, it seems to indicate a new direction of both emotion and sound.
In a way, its title alone was a tipoff that Mauno would be shaking things up. Their first LPs were named after two pivotal yet decidedly uninteresting parts of the music-making process: Tuning and Rough Master. The former is like breathing—monumentally important though never given any thought—while the latter is a confused combination of the post-production process (rough mixes are mastered). Both works were expansive and freeing in their own ways, their sophomore record making a particularly deep impact.
Mauno pares down their intention on Really Well, feeling more sardonic and angular than ever. Existing fans may require a few listens to hear the Mauno they’ve always loved in these new songs; irregular drum rhythms and plenty of rests suggest more arty influences than ever before. These Montreal natives never forgot how to make compelling post-rock, they’ve only changed the formula to get there.
One of the album’s leading singles opens the record as an attempt at reassurance. “Really Really” is as convincing as the album’s title—which is to say it’s flimsy at best, filled with descriptions of fear and nerves. Its trim soundscape sets instrumental expectations for the rest of the record, preparing listeners for the unison melodies in “Take Care” and muted strums in “Expectations.” Exhaustion and incredulity creep into “20 Times” as well as “Notice,” whose lyrics read like an irritated email gone off the rails: “I cannot believe you have the gall to ask me for literally anything at this point…/No, thank you/No, fuck you.”
The contemplative side of Mauno peeks through in the final two songs, which feature broader melodies on guitar and more reverb than the rest of Really Well combined. The band continues to exhibit their wit with misnomers and cynicism, which have been on display since Rough Masters. In fact, there is a tangible connection to that record in “Reeling II,” a direct sequel to their debut’s opening track. Mauno has grown significantly since 2016, but they are still the same clever band, hung up on life’s anxieties.