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Alternative & Indie - Released July 26, 2019 | Fiction

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Mini Mansions hinted they were getting more serious -- or, at least, more confessional -- with the title track of their 2018 EP Works Every Time. As it turns out, that was just a glimpse of the musical and emotional territory they cover on Guy Walks into a Bar…. The band's third album presents singer/multi-instrumentalist Michael Shuman's ill-fated, whirlwind relationship with his ex-fiancée as a joke with a giddy setup -- and a painful punch line. The steep rise and fall of this romance honed Mini Mansions' already sharp songwriting, and the first half of Guy Walks into a Bar… is as immediate and irresistible as love at first sight. From the slow-motion, disco-tinged prologue of "We Should Be Dancing" to the fizzy piano pop of "I'm in Love," these songs are made out of the addictive adrenaline and endorphin rush of a new relationship. At times, Mini Mansions sound like they might be even more in love with love (or lust) itself than with an actual woman: "Don't Even Know You" is a rose-tinted montage of romantic images with helium-laced vocals that would do Marc Bolan proud, while "Bad Things (That Make You Feel Good)" -- which sounds like Devo on the prowl -- and "Forgot Your Name"'s chrome-plated new wave get carried away by their own head-over-heels momentum. Since Guy Walks into a Bar… begins on such a high, its inevitable lows hit all the harder. On the album's second half, Mini Mansions don't just fall out of love; they fall in love in reverse. In a neat mirror image, the disco and new wave thrills of the album's first half curdle on the sullenly slinky "GummyBear" and "Living in the Future," a glittery yet bitter piece of synth-rock that could be a face-off between Supertramp and Sparks. The band manages to make heartache almost as appealing as falling in love on "Works Every Time," where lyrics like "sky's flashing like a zoetrope as the stars fall apart on the floor," reflect Shuman's longing with fittingly glam-rock imagery. They also flip the script with "Hey Lover," a duet that sounds like a soft-focus love song until the Kills' Alison Mosshart responds to Shuman with a tender "hey, f*cker" before the song builds to climactic harmonies. Moments like these prove that even when they're heartbroken, Mini Mansions are remarkably witty, and the way they combine their cleverness with newfound emotional depth makes Guy Walks into a Bar… their most satisfying album yet. ~ Heather Phares
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 28, 2018 | Fiction

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 26, 2019 | Fiction

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Rock - Released March 23, 2015 | Capitol Records, LLC

Given that they've had releases on labels run by Josh Homme and Mike Patton, it's no secret that Mini Mansions have friends in high places. Still, the amount of star power surrounding the band's third album is notable: not only is The Great Pretenders on T-Bone Burnett's Electromagnetic imprint, it features collaborations with Brian Wilson and Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner. However, the band is never overshadowed by these connections, largely because this is their strongest work yet. They spent two and a half years honing these songs, and more than ever, the album finds Mini Mansions living up to their name: The Great Pretenders is compact yet lavish, with melodies that sparkle like a chandelier and production that gleams like newly polished silverware. Songs like the breathy and breezy "Death Is a Girl" and "Heart of Stone" are quintessential Mini Mansions, with their airy keyboards and Beatles-meets-ELO vibe, while "Honey, I'm Home" recalls the kind of bouncy yet sinister pop that happens when Michael Shuman's other band Queens of the Stone Age gets near a piano. Yet Mini Mansions sound more modern and streamlined on The Great Pretenders than ever before, even when they break out the glitter on the glam flashbacks "Fantasy" and "Creeps," where Shuman sings "nothin's gonna get too deep." This deceptively blasé vibe permeates the album's jaunty melodies and deadpan lyrics, suggesting that Mini Mansions are most genuine when they're wickedly ironic. This is particularly true of the tracks featuring guest stars: Wilson is a perfect fit as a backing vocalist on "Any Emotions," adding a bittersweet tinge to its determined detachment. Meanwhile, Turner embodies the dark side of the band's cheery disdain on "Vertigo," where The Great Pretenders' seedy undercurrent rises to the surface. Though they get heavier on the album's second half -- most successfully on "Mirror Mountain"'s gut-punching outbursts -- it's the way they bring their pop skills to the fore that makes The Great Pretenders solid evidence that Mini Mansions should be as well-known as the company they keep. ~ Heather Phares
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 28, 2018 | Fiction

Two years after the release of The Great Pretenders, Mini Mansions' Michael Shuman, Zach Dawes, and Tyler Parkford finally had some downtime from their other bands -- Queens of the Stone Age, Last Shadow Puppets, and Arctic Monkeys, respectively -- to record some of their own songs. As on The Great Pretenders, the Works Every Time EP reveals more of Mini Mansions' vulnerability without losing any of their music's glitz and glam. The title track is one of the band's smoothest, poppiest songs yet, with glistening synths and '80s guitar solos polishing soul-baring lyrics like "I don't even know what I'm looking for" to a high shine. Later, "This Bullet"'s synth rock conflates falling in love with a death wish. There's more than a little synthwave influence on Works Every Time, but Mini Mansions come by it honestly; keyboards have been an integral part of their sound since the start, and the juxtaposition of sexy electro sounds and desperate words on "Midnight in Tokyo" proves they know how to wield a synth more expressively than many up-and-comers. While the industrial-tinged reworking of Edwyn Collins' "A Girl Like You" isn't quite as strong as some of their other covers, it echoes the way the EP's original songs teeter between lust and anxiety. As it distills where they've been and where they're going, Works Every Time reaffirms that Mini Mansions' EPs are just as important to their body of work as their albums. ~ Heather Phares