Miracles of Modern Science have a vision for the future of pop music. Forget mind-controlled beats and artificially intelligent synthesizers—with just violin, cello, mandolin, drums, and a double bass-wielding frontman, MOMS create “pop that sounds like something new” (Wired). Their new LP, Mean Dreams (out 8.14.15), unites past and future in a set of songs that upend notions of what stringed instruments can do.
On Mean Dreams, strings are neither rock imitation nor classical ornamentation. “There’s no separate string section behind music stands supporting the band,” notes singer/bassist Evan Younger. “The strings are the band.”
“In some ways it’s a limitation, but there are things our instruments can do that others can’t,” says violinist Kieran Ledwidge. “We think differently with strings in our hands than we would with guitars or keyboards. It’s exciting to see what songs come out of this combination.”
The band’s classically inspired passion for counterpoint and structure adds a dimension seldom heard in pop songs. You’ll rarely find one member strumming chords while another plays lead; on Mean Dreams, each instrument’s distinct melodies combine into elaborate textures. The record is a tapestry of recurring themes and motifs, where odd rhythms and harmonic detours weave seamlessly in and out of hooks.
However, MOMS temper their meticulous songcraft with a quick wit and a feel for the zeitgeist: their videos for “Swipe” (a duet about dating app Tinder), “Bon Joviver” (a mashup that Huffington Post declared “perfect”), and others have tallied millions of views and been featured on Billboard, MTV, Cosmopolitan, and Buzzfeed. The band’s music videos for Mean Dreams are full of the same humor and DIY spirit. (Keep your eyes peeled for a pair of tearaway pants in the one-take video for “Follow Your Heart (Or Something)”—the band sewed them by hand.)
MOMS have evolved since releasing 2011’s Dog Year, an NPR Weekend Edition favorite, and 2013’s MEEMS EP, which The Guardian praised for “highlighting talents rarer and rarer to find in modern music.” No longer fresh-faced college grads eagerly exploring Brooklyn’s music scene, members have lost lovers to distant coasts and continents, felt the conflicting tugs of artistic passion and home life stability, and weathered the vagaries of the modern music business. Stirred by the question of when to put a dream on a deadline, MOMS have produced their most urgent work on Mean Dreams: ten unconventional anthems that mix inspirational energy with gnawing doubt, and frustration with wry self-awareness about the long odds of making it as a band.
Confronting this angst-inducing subject, the band found themselves reflecting on the music that first sparked their rock star fantasies. Cellist Geoff McDonald recalls, “I dreamed of being in the next Weezer or Green Day, but I didn’t imagine my cello would be involved.” Now MOMS have made an album their younger selves might have loved, channeling their childhood heroes’ rock energy and driving choruses through their own eclectic style and unlikely instrumentation.
Mandolinist Josh Hirshfeld adds, “If the album inspires anyone to pick up an old instrument and play it in a new way, we’ll be happy.”