Tightening up their focus from their eponymous debut, Dutch band Mozes and the Firstborn mine a wealth of alternative rock and ’90s/’00s power pop on Great Pile of Nothing. Produced by the band’s drummer, Raven Aartsen, they’ve nailed the hi-fi hum and grunge flecks that dominated the airwaves, teen movies and mall speakers in the ’90s, but they’ve taken the lyrics on a more introspective bent this time around. In that respect they take a nice chunk from the Fountains of Wayne/Matthew Sweet camp. Its a sweet and frothy album on surface inspection but its crawling with anxiety, depression and self-doubt under the skin. The band knows that a song depicting the housebound lifestyle of an obsessive-compulsive goes down sweeter with a chunky guitar riff, that a tale of cringing self-sabotage needs a hundred foot hook and that there’s nothing wrong with embracing the bittersweet.
The production and songwriting are certainly more consistent on Great Pile of Nothing, its more about building an album through subtleties, which means there seem to be a few less obvious standout earworms this time around aside from the kicker of a title track. But while they often fall into a flatter tone, they buoy the album back with the winsome emotion and enough pop shading to make this one the kind of comedown album that’s welcome on the right kind of rainy day. Great Pile of Nothing winds up less of a world shaker than a friend to lean on, its introspective nature shifts it more towards a comforting blanket adorned in brightly colored patterns. But that’s no slight, there’s a market for comfort. Everyone needs a bit of sympathy these days.
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