reviewed by Michael Thomas
The sixth of January is a significant date for Mark Mills. It’s his birthday, and also the day his mother died. So on this important date, he released an album that is celebratory at its core. But it doesn’t forget the trauma that can come from it.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Mills’ brand of electro-pop is the way he uses the same brush to paint the many scenes of his music. Over the course of the album’s 16 songs, listeners can groove along to songs about attractive older men, hypermasculine fantasy, being sexualized, and cultural genocide. It’s not at all a coincidence that I was first introduced to Mills through a show he played with Christian Hansen—both play with pop in the same way.
Mills in most of his songs is fairly tongue-in-cheek. “Bank Account,” previously a single, is based on a time when a woman brazenly grabbed his ass while he was performing. The bassy groove supports him as he explains the title idea: “It’s my bank account/Only I can take my money out.” On “Ideal Man,” Mills makes fun of what is considered manly.
In other places, Mills sounds like he’s soundtracking a lot 80s movie, like the kinetic “MRS.” (though the chorus does sound a lot like “Bank Account”) and “Run Like the Wind,” with its healthy dose of falsetto. He perhaps makes his 80s influence the most apparent on his cover of Chris de Burgh’s “Lady in Red,” which he covers with extra dollops of synth but otherwise played straight.
Early on in the album, however, Mills shows he has a serious side too. “Dancing with Death” is a literal title for the emotional song, which reminds us that no matter how well or badly we live, death comes for us all. We may as well say hi to—and dance with—death itself. And then there’s “Colonial.” If that name makes you think of historical atrocities, you’ll have an idea about this song, a fiery criticism of Canada’s treatment of aboriginals and even just the way privileged people deal with those who are oppressed.
Besides the 12 new songs on the album, he also remixes songs from Triple Fire Sign and Love Yourself. They’re worth revisiting for “CEPS” and the depressingly accurate “Goodbye Moment.”
January 6 of this year was also the rumored release date of Drake’s Views From the 6 but 1.6.16 is a much better way to mark the day.
Top Tracks: “Dancing With Death”; “Poor Temptation”; “Colonial”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)