As Washington, D.C. indie rock outfit Mittenfields know, it’s hard to be remembered. To be fair, it always has been. But we live in a time of unprecedented access to other people’s creative work; it’s never before been so easy to move on to the next thing. It’s never been so tempting to forget, in order to make room for the next.
For artists, naturally, that’s an anxiety-inducing thought. That anxiety, and no small amount of anger, color the songs on Optimists, the debut LP from Mittenfields. But the songs in this collection of raucous shoegaze and noise pop are both memorable and memory-inducing, calling up Doug Martsch’s widescreen scope, the raw simplicity of Kim Deal and the shouty quaver of Win Butler circa Funeral.
The group — vocalist Dave Mann, drummer Brian Moran and guitarist trio Sam Sherwood, Michael Ball and Donald Seale — have had plenty of time to let their sound (and influences) marinate; they’ve been largely dormant since their well-received 2011 EP, The Fresh Sum. That effort held the promise of the distillation of some of the best acts of the 90s — Pavement, The Pixies, Built to Spill — and their long-awaited follow-up delivers. You can hear it in the intricately layered guitar work on “We’ve Become Numbers” and in “Telepathic Windows’” broad, wailing lament. And you can hear it in the nine-minute extended rager of album closer “Surprise Me.”
“We wanted to do more than just prolong our adolescence playing rock,” guitarist Sam Sherwood half-jokes. And they’ve certainly done so with Optimists. Nothing on this tightly executed collection suggests a teenager noodling around with his guitar. In the years since The Fresh Sum, the quintet has developed a clean, cohesive sound, the better to showcase their respective skills.
Some bands deserve to be remembered. With Optimists, Mittenfields pay tasteful homage to some of the 90s indie rock’s greats and prove that they’re well worth remembering as well.