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The Meaning of 8

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Album Review

On The Meaning of 8, gears are switched from the distorted hip-hop pop of the last Enon-flavored, Advice from the Happy Hippopotamus to a less scatterbrained, more glossy indie-rock album. While it may be a tad disappointing to have Craig Minowa downshift from his expertise of mishmashing styles, it's remarkable to hear how capable he is at creating songs in this specific genre. In fact, the start of the album feels driven by a musical chameleon totally intent on replicating the tunes of his peers (most blatantly Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire, the Flaming Lips, and the Polyphonic Spree.) Despite a more formulaic style and a reduced amount of experimental whimsy than before, the majority of these songs succeed. Where songs bubbled and blipped before, now they puff, bulge, and explode. The pieces are lush and well crafted, and often, as a songsmith, Minowa achieves a more poignant result than his immediate influences. The lovely and ripe-for-spring-fever single, "Chemicals Collide," features a Montreal indie-rock chamber pop formula that focuses on the build — a guitar part slowly propels from finger-picking into a militant strumming over orchestral swells until the bottom drops out and then returns with a grandiose tom-fueled chorus. This new structure works especially well on the three songs that are the most somber and epic: "Hope," "Thanks" and "Dance of the Dead." They build skyward from lullabies to fourth-quarter supreme climaxes and contain the album's most heartbreaking and finest moments; especially upon realization that the conceptual overtones, saturated with philosophy and mortality, are inspired by Minowa's loss of his son. At the album's weakest moments, bits feel half-finished and almost like afterthoughts with a scattering of minimal instrumental jams and the whinier "2X2x2" and "A Good God" obstructing the view of an otherwise inspired and unusually focused vision. In most cases, the melodies are powerful, painful, and embellished with a potpourri of headphone candy — xylophone, glockenspiel, piano, music box, vibes, and cello, combined with a variety of distorted synths, guitars, basses, and Bonham-esque drums. Ultimately, the shining moments outweigh the weaker ones (despite the exceptionally long running time), and, when Minowa hits his mark somewhere between the direct homage and the overly abstract, the results are sublime and engaging. ~Jason Lymangrover, Rovi


Formed: 1995 in Duluth, MN

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The experimental, environmentally conscious Cloud Cult began in the mid-'90s in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The band was initially the solo project of Craig Minowa, who launched Cloud Cult while he was pursuing a degree in environmental science, and also shining shoes and driving an ice cream truck, among other jobs. Minowa spent the bulk of 1995 recording The Shade Project, which included sounds produced by buckets, pans, and couch cushions. Additional musicians were recruited to play the material live,...
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The Meaning of 8, Cloud Cult
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