UMPHREY'S McGEE- MANTIS (2009)
Mantis is Umphrey's McGee fourth studio album and what a great one it is. This is a band that has been attracting more and more people to its music. They have taken over where Phish left off. Fans of the bands try to trade as many shows to each other as possible. Umphrey's live performances include improvisation like Phish and King Crimson. This gives each show a new and unique set each night. I have heard about this band on the forum I go to many times but I never really was anxious to dive into their catalog. I knews they were a jam band from Chicago but that's about it. When Mantis was released on January 20, I decided to check it out and I LOVED what I heard. And now onto the review of the album.
The album at times feels like it owes itself more to modern prog giants Beardfish than it does Phish. Made to Measure employs a string arrangement and while it does feel like it is tacked on to the beginning it still has much to offer. The 12 minute title track is one of my favorites on the album and moves through multiple sections that are completely addicting. Cemetary Walk is another one of my favorites. The ending is a moment I keep returning to on the album. The electro-beat infused reprise is very cool as well. We then come to Turn & Run. A solid track but it didn't hit me upon first listen. It is growing on me though. Spires is the track I first heard from this album via the band's myspace. Another song that's a clear standout on the album. The whole vibe given off during the instrumental section at the end is great. Prophecy Now is pretty good but to me it acts more as a link between Spires and Red Tape. Red Tape has some really good vocal harmonies/ Again, the instrumental sections are just on fire. 1348 is the album closer and what a great closer it is.
The drumming by Kris Myers is VERY impressive. Great vocals and superb instrumental sections. I would love to see these guys perform this material live and see how they add improv to some of the songs. This a band that would be perfect for Progressive Nation. Maybe next year perhaps? Overall, this is clearly the best album of the year so far and I expect it to be in my top 10 by the end of 2009.