What makes the Mantles the Mantles? Maybe it's the idiosyncratic motion and energy of Michael Olivares' vocals, the way they alternately stroll and hop assuredly over the music. Or maybe it's the band's sound itself, familiar and classic yet increasingly distinctive, and growing—with acoustic texture; keyboard hooks and licks; and resonant and representative drumbeats—to its deepest, warmest, fullest, and most colorful on their third album, "All Odds End," a record that is quintessentially Mantles from the sheer sonic splendor and elation—and biting words—of the album-opening "Island" on through to the final harmony of "Stay."
The album exits with "Stay," so you can loop right back and listen to it all over again, and live for a bit within songs that capture those heightened moments when you (and Olivares' lyrical portraiture often favors a perceptive "you" over a needy. greedy "I") are at the threshold of change. It's right there in the snapshot-vivid lyrics of "Doorframe": "Ooh nothing like standing in a doorframe all day." While it's tempting to see these transitional vignettes—marked by characters who are simultaneously coming and going—as reflective of day-to-day tumult in contemporary Bay Area, Olivares brushes off the idea: "We would have written the same songs even if we weren't here."
Still, the theme even extends to the making of "All Odds End." The band reunited with Jason Quever, song-smith of Papercuts, and master of vintage audio production who recorded The Mantles' much loved early single, “Don’t Lie.” Quever had all his boxes packed for a move to L.A. while recording and mixing the album, with his equipment his only belongings out of storage. The situation meant an already attentive, sound-romancing producer had an even more heightened focus on the song's ingredients, and appreciation of how they form a greater whole. It spills right off of the layered "Island," which grows as it goes along, motored and punctuated by the playfully assured interplay between Olivares's vocals and Virginia Weatherby's steadily propulsive, detailed (yes, that is a Vibraslap) drumming. It's apparent in the stark, bracing "Lately," where acoustic guitar has the sharp-to-blind beauty of morning sunlight.
For this album Olivares, Weatherby, and lead guitarist Justin Loney were joined by Matt Bullimore on bass, a New Zealand native and member of Oakland’s Legs, and Carly Putnam on keyboard. These two new members energize the band into exploring territory that ranges from the staccato bursts and messy wisdom of "Police My Love" (which draws from a crazy variety of lyrical inspirations), to the country lilt of "Undelivered," to the casually anthemic SF-to-LA tilt of "Best Sides." People move, bands fall apart, cities change, but the Mantles abide and grow stronger, embodying their many-faceted name—planetary core-deep; incandescent; enveloping—a bit more with each new day, year, song and album. The Mantles are more and more the Mantles, and listening with dedication is like getting gifts. "All Odds End," but the group continues to bloom.