Mason Proper : Olly Oxen Free

<img src="" alt=" " />The young Mason Proper manage to charm even as they haunt on their sophomore – but not sophomoric – full-length, <em>Olly Oxen Free</em>....
7.7 Dovecote

 The young Mason Proper manage to charm even as they haunt on their sophomore – but not sophomoric – full-length, Olly Oxen Free. Hailing from the wilds of non-Motor City Michigan, the five-piece made a name for themselves in 2006 with their debut, There is a Moth in Your Chest, eventually signing to Dovecote Records and re-releasing their debut last year, followed by Shorthand EP earlier this year.  As alluded to in Shorthand, Mason Proper have seriously matured from the (admittedly somewhat cheesy) Moth, bringing an interesting haunt to Olly Oxen Free, while never quite losing their natural appeal.

Oxen starts very well with “Fog”, a looming shadow that introduces the record’s emo-haunt without choking the listener.  Unfortunately, Mason slip a bit after that, first on the nicely swishing chorus, but unremarkable verse, of “Point A to Point B”.  Then the band brings in this funky flair on “Lock and Key” and “Only a Moment”; while not as out of place as one might expect, it makes the two tracks too stop-start to really carry out their wistful undertone.

However, Mason Proper are able to combine their wist with more positive elements much better on the bright, emo-wistful, “Out Dragging the River”.  And even when the band relatively misfires, like on “Key”, “Moment”, or the more interesting-than-really-good slow disco-tronic “Downpour”, they’re never off-putting, and always likeable (akin to what today’s prep-school indie bands like Vampire Weekend are said to be, but aren’t really…).  More importantly, Oxen ends very strong, starting with “Shiny”, whose up-tempo wa-wa charms in a young way.  Closer “Safe for the Time Being” brings a fitting swishing air finish off Oxen, wafting it into the atmosphere – but not before the record reaches its high point in the penultimate “Alone”, and eccentric, eclectic, wry-funk tapper that is both interesting and enjoyable.

Like other young, Middle America indie-rock outfits such as Wild Sweet Orange (QRO album review), Mason Proper has danced with today’s emo demon.  They’ve also contended with the smiling, but can be insufferable, charmed-youth-charm of brighter new indie bands like state-mates, Tally Hall (QRO photos).  But on Olly Oxen Free, the group has somehow managed to skirt through and by both of those, while crafting their own unique echo.  Even when less than impressive, one can’t say one doesn’t still like the band, and that’s the kind of goodwill that can’t be contained.

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