There’s a portion of music about 10 minutes into the new Mineral Girls album that kind of locks in the band’s shining move into clarity. The pop elements of the song fall back into the distance to give way to a shimmering moment of peace. The words trail off and the guitars turn cyclical, entrancing, dazzling. Truly a look-out-toward-the-horizon moment, this section (from “This Is The Last Time”) is simple but definitive. Here, the North Carolina group extends outward what it might’ve before stuffed into a tinier space. On 2015’s Cozy Body, the songs were warm but opaque, filtered through fuzz, cloudy even from up close. In contrast, This Is The Last Time Every Time is exposed, vulnerable, crisp and loud.
We’re reminded of other bands that emerged out of the fuzz to make incredible records. Braid’s Bob Nanna coming up close with Frame & Canvas’s tongue-twisted opening lines after an under-the-surface rhythm introduction on “The New Nathan Detroits.” Death Cab For Cutie taking the shields down about a minute into We Have The Facts. More recently, You Blew It! enlisted Evan Weiss to bring Keep Doing What You’re Doing into clanging, blaring light. Coming closer is a risk, but This Is The Last Time Every Time is in the company of these successes.
Mineral Girls takes a confident step forward while the songs bring us through the knotty, complex pains of being alive. The rousing “Let’s Talk About Us” wades through these contradictions—it’s a twisting rock song that gives power to a chorus that goes “I am in love with everyone and terrified of everything.”
Most of the record is defined by its meticulous guitar work, tightening up like sailor knots and loosening again into strings on songs like “Bridge Over What.” The title track is an outlier musically, trading in teetering guitars for thin electronics and campfire singalongs. Immediately reminiscent of Lifted/I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning-era Bright Eyes, with its off-kilter vocals and existential spoken-word interruptions, “This Is The Last Time Every Time” is a fractured song that wobbles between intimate crisis and infinite questions with a warm sense of dark humor.
This Is The Last Time Every Time is a record about feeling disconnected. The characters in these songs grapple on the line between their internal and external selves, ditching their own parties to be alone, trying to understand how other people appear to live peacefully. On “The Bruise On We,” the pain of these disconnections come to an apex, breaking into catharsis after two minutes of level-headed weaving: “All of the world’s/Most beautiful imagery/Is associated with something/That I can’t relate to.”
Although the LP deals with heavy topics—depression, body image, abuse and addiction among them—the very existence of these songs is an act of perseverance. An open heart in search of healing beats at the center of each one. This is beautiful, harsh and (let’s not forget) wholly enjoyable music built on shifting structures that pivot sometimes slowly and sometimes all at once. With This Is The Last Time Every Time, Mineral Girls give everything of themselves without the distance that lo-fi recordings can impose. The result is something best held close to your chest.
—Jordan T. Walsh