What has consistently defined Mogwai, legendary post-rockers from Glasgow, is their ability to create a totally unique sound with every release. Even if you don’t love all of their albums, it’s hard to deny the sheer versatility the band possesses. Now, almost twenty years since the release of their legendary debut, Mogwai have chosen to grace us with another amazing record in Every Country’s Sun.
As experimental as the album is, Every Country’s Sun actually kicks off with a more traditional Mogwai sound with the wonderfully named “Coolverine”. The song progresses, twists, and reflects on the darkened ambiance it creates. Like with any classic post-rock album, this opener, much like the album cover, gives me the image of a slow, tortured sunrise, moving continuously until a black orb remains perched in the hallowed sky. Mogwai continues its use of synths found throughout their last album, Rave Tapes. Thankfully, their use is much more subtle here.
The mood of the record then takes a complete 180 on the killer single “Party in the Dark”. Starting off with captivatingly groovy guitars, the track is one of the poppiest Mogwai has ever written. It gently invites the listener to nod their head along, rather than just lay back calmly. The most standout feature of the song though would have to be the vocals that last the whole track, an unusual feature. Stuart Braithwaite’s vocals hum in and out with a sort of paranormal effect, like a phantom trying to break free.
Any seasoned fan will tell you that Mogwai possesses the amazing ability to progress a track. Few artists manage to keep a track engaging for an audience for several minutes, and even fewer can do it better than Mogwai. On “Crossing the Road Material”, the band puts this ability on full display. The track begins with a methodical and carefully timed lead, eerily reminiscent of the band’s early work. As the halfway point of the song approaches, the track, increasing in energy, erupts into some fiery emotive playing. The riffs are basically the same, but now played with so much energy that gives the entire track new life. I believe this could easily become one of the band’s most legendary songs.
For a few years now, Mogwai have been using synths in many of their albums. Many times, with the most extreme case being Rave Tapes, they either barely exist or consume the whole record, taking the focus away from all other features in the record. Even when an album was good, the synths were always a pest, like a piece of spinach stuck in someone’s teeth that you can’t help looking at. Every Country’s Sun sees the band find the perfect balance, with synths that add to record rather than absorb it. Songs like “aka 47” and “Brain Sweeties” are examples of this, perfectly blended tracks that become highlights of the whole record.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the album is just how reserved Mogwai seem to be. Not since 1999’s Come On Die Young has the band sounded so placid, which is not a bad thing at all. In fact, it serves as a welcome change of pace for the band. With few exceptions: there really are no triumphant crescendos or quirky guitar leads to speak of.
Rather, there is a collection of simple songs with an incredibly dark edge to them.
A great example of this can be found on the title track, which closes out the record. Nothing about the track is utterly complex, but the emotion packed in every note is as raw as can be. It punches you in the gut from its serene beginning until its wrenching end, where powerful guitars tug voraciously on your heart. In case you’re wondering what makes Mogwai so fantastic, check this song out and you’ll know. I challenge you to listen to it and elicit no emotional response.
Since writing a rather large guide on the music of Mogwai, I have asked myself how Every Country’s Sun compares to rest of the band’s discography. Before listening to it, I had little faith that it would reach the heights of legendary albums like Hardcore Will Never Die or Young Team. While it doesn’t quite compare to those albums, Every Country’s Sun can stand proudly as one of Mogwai’s better records, definitely in the top four.
I am simply taken aback by the depth of this record. The quality of the songs increases the deeper in the track listing you go. It morphs from being another solid Mogwai release into an entirely new experience, one that leaves me shaking by the time it finishes. It’s an album that fights off many demons, but manages to crack a wry smile in spite of it all. A shining moment in the band’s legendary career, Every Country’s Sun further cements Mogwai’s legacy as post-rock’s finest. As if they had anything left to prove.
Kyle Land is a music writer for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org