Los Angeles' Mini Mansions make dark psych-pop that echoes the smoldering rock and plentiful hooks of its members' other bands: Singer/multi-instrumentalist Michael Shuman plays bass for Queens of the Stone Age, bassist Zach Dawes also works with the Last Shadow Puppets, and singer/keyboardist Tyler Parkford is a touring member of Arctic Monkeys. However, Mini Mansions explore the glamorous surfaces and seedy underbelly of their hometown with a wit and irony all their own, whether giving Blondie's "Heart of Glass" a glacial makeover or balancing theatrics with soul-baring vocals on releases such as 2015's The Great Pretenders and 2019's Guy Walks Into a Bar…. Mini Mansions was built on long-running friendships: Shuman and Dawes were childhood pals, and Dawes met Parkford when they went to school in Santa Cruz, California. Dawes sent Shuman some of Parkford's songs in 2005, and when Parkford returned to Los Angeles in 2008, they planned to make music together. The trio officially became Mini Mansions in 2009 after Queens of the Stone Age finished touring in support of Era Vulgaris. Shuman and Parkford picked the best of the songs they had already written and made those into a self-released EP they issued later in 2009. Mini Mansions continued recording, with QOTSA frontman Josh Homme mixing some tracks, and they readied their self-titled debut album. The single Monk, which featured a slow-motion cover of Blondie's "Heart of Glass," arrived in June 2010 on Psychedelic Judaism, and Mini Mansions was issued by Ipecac Records and Homme's Rekords Rekords imprint that November. In 2012, the band released a handful of songs that didn't make it onto the album as the Besides EP. Mini Mansions spent two and a half years writing their second album and recorded it at L.A.'s Vox Recording Studios with special guests including the Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner and Brian Wilson (Dawes also played bass on a session for Wilson's 2015 album No Pier Pressure). T-Bone Burnett's Electro Magnetic imprint released The Great Pretenders in March 2015. Flashbacks, which collected B-sides and previously unreleased tracks from The Great Pretenders sessions, appeared as a crowd-funded release in 2016. After spending some time working with their other bands, Dawes, Parkford, and Shuman reconvened as Mini Mansions for 2018's Works Every Time. Recorded with The Great Pretenders co-producer Cian Riordan, the EP featured some of the band's most personal songs as well as a cover of Edwyn Collins' "A Girl Like You." The EP's title track also appeared on Mini Mansions' third full-length, July 2019's Guy Walks Into a Bar…. Tracing the course of an ill-fated relationship of Shuman's, the album included cameos by the Kills' Alison Mosshart, Z. Berg (formerly of the Like) and QOTSA drummer Jon Theodore. ~ Heather Phares
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Alternative & Indie - Released July 26, 2019 | Fiction
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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