Meenk – Scamu Scau Review

This EP is awesome.
Self-Released, 2014
Purchase: Bandcamp

8.7 / 10

In the time that I’ve been writing about music, I’ve noticed that one of my most frequent gripes is with the length of a record. I’d much rather an album leaving me wanting more than outstaying its welcome. For example, SoundGarden’s Down on the Upside wouldn’t be nearly as frustrating if its 16 tracks were paired down to 11. Or Parquet Courts’ Sunbathing Animal wouldn’t have felt so thin if it was whittled down to an EP (c.f., the excellent Tally All The Things That You Broke). I’ve always thought that less was more. In some twist of poetic justice, karmic retribution, or misplaced irony, I came across Meenk’s debut EP, Scamu Scau. And what’s my chief complaint: I wish it was longer.

People say this kind of crap all the time, so let me repeat: I wish Scamu Scau was longer. I get angry, I get upset whenever this EP’s four songs are over.

Meenk is the songwriting nom de plume of May Rio, a new artist in Brooklyn. Scamu Scau is the first music we’ve heard out of her so far, and it’s a short, sweet, sure-handed debut. Across these brief four tracks, Meenk establishes itself as an idea, but never long enough for it to become fully known. Scamu Scau is too well-curated to be lo-fi, but it comes with a lot of the hallmarks that you’d get out of that genre: loose rhythms, comfortable pacing, and a seemingly lackadaisical approach. Just because this music doesn’t feel like getting out of its pajamas doesn’t mean it’s lazy, or not well put together.

One of the striking things about Scamu Scau is how economical it is as a record. Songs begin immediately, with Rio’s vocals appearing within the first two counts of the track’s start, and there’s very rarely a stretch of two full seconds that don’t feature her vocals. Instead of making these songs cluttered, Rio’s constant vocal presence means that she has even more time to pump these songs up with melody. There’s not a note out of place, not a moment spared, here.

From a technical stand point, Meenk’s debut is deftly assembled. Produced, mixed, engineered by Carlos Hernandez and Julian Fader of Ava Luna, Scamu Scau has a lot of the same precision and confidence that you’d expect from these guys. This EP is recorded in such a way to keep Meenk sounding casual, but not amateurish. This is a bedroom recording project, thrown out of the bedroom and into a studio. The recording and musicianship here is loose, but it never feels in any danger of coming apart at the seams. Smaller touches bring together some of these songs, like the organ hidings just out of the foreground on “Up”, or the two dueling guitars during the chorus of “19”.

Okay, so one more thing: the lyrics here are pretty excellent too. Many of the lyrics here are descriptive rather than introspective, and rather than spell out feelings or ideas, images are used to convey stories and emotions. Take the scenario on closing track “Happiness Forgets” for example, where a woman receives collect calls from a jailed lover, but refuses to pay the nominal charges over and over. You can read into this story however you’d like: add feelings, add context, add history. “19” evokes some equally vivid imagery with “swim suit, brand new / see through and wet”, but the key this time is in how Meenk rattles off these ideas, as if casually reading through a checklist. The scene itself is created so vividly, it’s hard not to fill it up with your own finer details.

All right, now here’s the kicker: Scamu Scau is available free on Bandcamp. You can download it for whatever price you’d like, so you have absolutely no excuse to check this thing out. This is one of my favorite listens of 2014, and it’s sure to come up again in our “Best of 2014” list at the end of the year.

Key Tracks: