“Book of Fools” is the new Mipso album. Some of the songs feel pretty rock and roll. There’s a looseness and an energy to the 11-song batch, with electric guitars and barroom piano and a good groove on the kit. It has some nice harmonies, too, the tight kind you’d expect from four friends who’ve been singing together for a decade. The songs are really good ones. You’ll want to keep singing them loud in the car and in your head while you walk around the supermarket. They may stick with you for a while.
The album came to life in the North Carolina mountains in the fall along with some long hikes along cold creeks. Then the band (aka Jacob, Joseph, Libby, and Wood) gathered in Oakland, California’s cherished Tiny Telephone Studio and stayed relaxed about the process. They invited long-time buddy Shane Leonard to play drums and produce, turned up the amps, and did a lot of it live to tape. On their sixth record–and after 1100 shows together– it felt fun to try some new sounds on the vibraphone, farfisa, mellotron, moog. Mostly they did what they do best: sing great and play great and write good songs. Maybe it’s better to think of Mipso as an American band, rather than an Americana band. Their attitude toward tradition could remind you of The Dead–or if we leave America, The Band and Fairport Convention. You have to absorb a lot of folk music to feel comfortable messing around with it. “Book of Fools” feels cozy and familiar but also strange, its songs sparkling with hand-me-down melodies and odd sounds and unanswered questions. Unanswerable questions. What would be the point in trying?