Meer – Playing House [Things You Might Have Missed 2021]

There’s no formal rule for what non-metal stuff gets covered at AMG. We just look for things that are likely to appeal to metalheads. Sometimes they’re side projects of metal musicians, sometimes things that are heavy aesthetically even if they’re not built on distorted guitars. Meer aren’t either of those, but they do play a lush, complex progressive pop with rock leanings which should delight prog fans of any stripe. The band is an 8-piece, notably including violin, viola, piano, and two vocalists. Somehow they sound even bigger than that. Grand, sweeping orchestral strings play off picked guitars, piano, and the two talented lead vocalists, amounting to even more than the sum of their many parts.

It would be easy for all their moving parts to end up messy, but every composition on Playing House is finely honed. The string section lends a warmth and richness to the music. They’re as comfortable with a plaintive vocal line over a minimal instrumental line as they are with a full band crescendo with chorus vocals, and many songs dance between the two. Meer certainly have a sound. That progression from a plucked violin, picked guitar or simple piano melody through to a grand denouement shows up on quite a few pieces. But this isn’t to say the album is repetitive. Instead, it’s cohesive. This is helped by some clever songwriting, particularly “Honey”‘s twisted reprise of “Beehive”. It’s also hard to pick individual standout songs as the whole record is consistently great. The extent to which each song lands successfully and has its own identity, while still feeling like a part of the whole, reminds me of the wonderful Vienna Teng.

I’m particularly impressed with Johanne Kippersund’s vocals. She’s talented, emotive, and varied, spanning from the lonely, emotional opening of “Honey” to the slightly unclean belt on “Beehive”‘s choruses. Knut Kippersund is also great, with his lead on “Child” a standout, and both also contribute to some wonderful harmonies (“She Goes”). While the vocals are an obvious highlight, every instrumentalist here is a vital part of the record. Each one takes a standout lead somewhere on the record. It’s hard to imagine it sounding so good without all of them.

Thematically, despite the energy and warmth, the songs play with melancholy. Lyrically, remaining positive in dark times pops up more than once (e.g. “Child,” “Picking Up the Pieces”1). This combination makes for a perfect pandemic times album, which has stayed with me throughout 2021. (I guess this is a little late as a recommendation in that case, but on the other hand, who thinks 2022 is going to be much different?) But it would have been a great record at any time. The orchestral warmth makes Playing House just really pleasant to listen to, and a counterpoint to all the brutality elsewhere on our playlists.2 Most importantly, though, I really can’t emphasize enough how good the songs here are. Every one earns its place, firmly stuck in your head.

Tracks to Check Out: “Picking Up the Pieces,” “Beehive,” “Child,” “Honey”

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Which I’m pretty sure is about trying to get anything done about climate change.
  2. Yes I do, I put Archspire on my list.
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