Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Every Friday, we present a song from a Northwestern artist. Today’s selection, featured on the Afternoon Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Heavy Is As Heavy Does” by Portland’s Menomena from their 2012 album Moms on Barsuk.
Formed in late 2000, Menomena was originally a collaborative effort between songwriter/musicians Brent Knopf, Justin Harris, and Danny Seim. Committed to a DIY ethic, the band recorded, produced and mixed their music completely by themselves, and also created their own intricate record packaging. Although the trio produced a series of critically acclaimed albums throughout the aughts, a personnel change came about in January 2011 as Harris and Seim announced Knopf’s departure. The idea for their first album as a duo, Moms, came from discussions between Seim (whose mother died in 1994) and Harris (who was essentially raised by a single mother), and both members contributed five tracks focused on their ideas on family. The fifth track on the album, “Heavy Is As Heavy Does,” finds the duo tackling emotionally weighty subjects with equally as heavy instrumentations. Grinding, somber piano drags along with a resonating drone as Harris laments the loss of his mother with one of the year’s most gripping vocal performances. Opening with the line, “Heavy are the branches hanging from my fucked up tree”, the piano eventually gives way to a punishing guitar onslaught, and as much catharsis Seim seems to be getting out of the song, the song never reaches a musical climax that reaches its emotional purgation, but that’s what makes it so heart-wrenchingly brilliant.
After playing MusicfestNW two weeks ago, Menomena embarked on a national tour in support of Moms, and they’ll finish up the North American leg on October 26th with a show at Showbox at the Market. Keep an eye on their website for any future developments, and an eye on the KEXP blog for videos from their MFNW session, and watch a video of the then-trio play “Queen Black Acid” live at KEXP in 2010 here: