With Before Today, John Maus' musical brother-in-arms Ariel Pink traded out warped cassette tapes and percussive sounds made with his mouth for hi-fi mastering at Abbey Road Studios and a clean (but still warm) move into smoother territories. The success of that album (commercially, aesthetically) surely gave Maus the itch to play with his own formula. His last record Love Is Real was by turns funky and dramatic, but it suffered from lack of focus and technical limitations. How would this new album We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves, change up the equation, if at all?
Opener “Streetlight” comes through the speakers with a glistening electronic trill, intimating that Maus isn't making records the way he has. And then the big bass line comes in—one of Maus' trademarks is the omnipresence of a smart, funky bottom end, and vocals half-hidden in reverb. So while we're seeing new territory, we're also not so far removed from Love Is Real to not recognize what we're hearing. In fact, as the album progresses it becomes increasingly clear that this is Maus recording the way he's become accustomed to—with better electronics, maybe, but there's no expert production or mixing happening behind the scenes.
Love Is Real was either a joy or a chore depending not on the way it sounded, but on the strength of the songwriting. Same here. “Streetlight” is a great opener, and the album progresses nicely with “...And The Rain” and “Quantum Leap,” which are surefooted numbers that you won't mind burrowing into again and again. “Hey Moon,” the fourth track, is a nice surprise. A duet with Molly Nilsson, this is a song she wrote and released three years ago, and it's a lovely and sentimental ballad that fits gamely into the mood Maus is trying to establish on this album. Nilsson's vocals are a nice surprise here.