Oh, La Brea
Philly’s Man Man has slowly evolved into a tighter, more focused version of itself, and on the band's fourth album, Life Fantastic, it has just about nailed a perfect balance between perpetrating beloved artistic chaos and making well-honed, impactful art. There’s less of a gypsy-hoedown aesthetic here, but the group has kept its junkyard-punk vaudeville vibe with stomping, swinging rhythms and a cleaner production that lets its arsenal of instruments (strings, pianos, horns, organ, guitars, marimbas, and amazing percussion) speak as loudly as necessary. Lyrically, it’s all bad news: Honus Honus growls about relationships gone bad and depression on tracks like the lovely, waltzing “Steak Knives,” the roaring “Dark Arts," and the unnervingly jaunty “Knuckles Down.” “Haute Tropique” is about a serial killer who alternately cannibalizes and, er, repurposes his victims. Honus’ wordplay almost renders the tune comical: “Two monks from a deli/he sriracha'd in jelly/and made a corset out of ‘em for his belly!” Man Man continues to surprise and delight, and now the band does it with less distraction—a very good thing.