Mipso “Book Of Fools”

Independent, 2023

Dreamy indie-americana folk with very skilfully written music.

Album cover artwork for Mipso "Book Of Fools"Mipso were originally formed in 2012 in Chapel Hill in central North Carolina. “Book Of Fools” is their sixth studio album and is a record that grows on you after repeated listens as you start to hear the quality and inventiveness of the music. The tracks aren’t immediately catchy and contain complex melodies (often more than one in a song) and changes of pace- they are certainly not “D-E-A” songs with a simple verse/chorus structure. Often discordant notes and chords are skilfully thrown in- This is jarring at first but over time you appreciate that they work very well and create extra interest.

They describe themselves as an indie-americana folk quartet. The music has a dreamy folk quality, with the “indie” bit here being when slightly fuzzed-up guitar is added to some songs. One of their previous albums was produced by Brad Cook, who has also produced Bon Iver, and they have a similar quiet mountain-folk feel to Bon Iver’s. However, there is an almost Beatles-like melodic vibe to some tracks and poppy seventies keyboard added at times.

Each of the four members contributes to the writing so you hear different subtle influences in various tracks. About half the tracks are written and sung by Libby Rodenbough, whose lead vocals remind you strongly of Courtney Marie Andrews, and who adds violin on some tracks. She also contributes to the great harmonies on other songs. Jacob Sharp and Joseph Terrell each wrote tracks in addition to taking lead vocals and playing guitar. Sharp also adds mandolin, for example on ‘Carolina Rolling By’, to give a bluegrass feel, and Terrell also plays lap steel guitar. Wood Robinson, with an ”interest in bridging jazz and bluegrass sensibilities” is on double bass and adds vocal harmonies.

The lyrics are thoughtful and serious, if sometimes rather cryptic so it can be difficult to discern exactly their meaning. The recent single ‘Broken Heart/Open Heart’ details the pain and despair that Sharp had when his mother died:

“The world seems full of strangers/ Every time you need a friend/ Why would you wake up tomorrow/ If it’s just today again”

However, the ‘Open Heart’ bit of the song comes in his realisation that you can heal after such devastation. In ‘Called Out Loaded’ Sharp admits to struggling: “I’ve been lost/ Called out and loaded/ Maybe I should have told you/ I wasn’t doing my best”

Elsewhere, the slowness of ‘I Wait For Your Call’ fits the yearning in the lyrics perfectly: “My mistake, carving hearts into the maple out back” and in ‘Break It To You Anyhow’, a relationship is hitting difficulties.

Less personal is ‘The Numbers’ where Rodenbough rails against the idea that the US is doing well when the Stock Market is doing well, even though there is decay all around, and ends with the sarcastic “What a thrill to be alive/ And the calculator never lies”

Mipso say that “Book Of Fools” feels like a fresh start after the pandemic. It is an album that this group of close friends can very much be proud of.

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