The Mendoza Line, ‘Fortune’ (Bar/None)
The Mendoza Line are six brainy Brooklynites subletting a tiny one-bedroom on the fine line between sophisticated art-pop and insular indie rock. In addition to lyrics and grainy old photos of men in uniform, the liner notes to their fifth album, Fortune, are filled with incomprehensible faux-McSweeny’s prose, not to mention shout-outs to the Williamsburg Bridge, Old 97’s frontman Rhett Miller, their former publicist, the editorial staff of this magazine, and many more. If you had to read a whole book of this stuff, you might become a Sum 41 fan.
Luckily, Fortune also comes with a CD, so you can just let its chiming, folk-rock beauty wash over you like a can of cool Pabst at last call. That’s easiest when Shannon McArdle, one of the three singer/songwriters who alternately front the band, is at the helm. On “Faithful Brother (Scourge of the Land)” and “It’s a Long Line (but It Moves Quickly),” McArdle dishes out sweet-and-sour sass like Neko Case with the New Pornographers, floating above her bandmates’ boozy thrum, dipping in and out of the guitar fuzz and Paul Deppler’s loping bass lines. Most of Fortune’stunes revolve around love and politics, which McArdle nails with a combination of wit, cynicism, and sorrow. “They want to send you off by the age of 21,” she sings over the righteous twang of “Flat Feet and Western Style,” “They’re gonna clear out your room for the bride of their first son.”
Singer/guitarists Timothy Bracy and Peter Hoffman come off like countless indie-rock dudes milling around wherever untucked, second-hand shirts are sold, but they still manage some flashes of cranky brilliance: “Before I Hit the Wall,” a mussed Replacements pastiche about finding “a place I don’t feel alone watching the evening news,” and the gorgeous, pedal-steeled “Let’s Not Talk About It.” In the garage-soul rave-up “An Architect’s Eye,” Bracy captures his generation’s uneasy relationship with hope in a killer couplet: “We were lovers in theory / You want empirical proof.”These days, who doesn’t?
See also: Rilo Kiley, More Adventurous (Brute/Beaute)