Field Study – The Mommyheads Examine Pandemic-Induced Society on ‘Age of Isolation’

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The Mommyheads’ “Age of Isolation” chronicles pandemic-induced uncertainty. Photo – Kevin Condon

As cultural anthropologists, The Mommyheads thoughtfully document the dawning of a new civilization.

The New York City indie pop quartet of Adam Elk (vocals, analog synths, guitar), Michael Holt (electric piano, vocals, synths), Dan Fisherman (drums, vocals) and Jason McNair (bass, recitation) poetically observes, records and shares the everyday habits of people living in newfound COVID-19 solitude.

Together, they produce and present a compelling 10-track report of recent lockdown life known as the Age of Isolation, which runs rampant with TV dinners, ceiling spots, drippy faucets, overgrown facial hair and extended window gazes.

As a follow-up to last year’s New Kings of Pop, The Mommyheads’ cerebral, contemplative 13th album beautifully delves into the psychological, political and social complexities of residing in suspended animation during quarantine. The Age of Isolation also gives new meaning to existential dread during a prolonged era of pandemic-induced uncertainty.

“I always think of records as snapshots or documents of certain time periods. That’s the main reason I like working through the writing and recording process extremely fast. It keeps you in the moment, especially in terms of the feeling and subject matter,” Elk said.

“The LP almost seems like a concept album, but that’s just because it never has the liberty of veering from its theme. I really hope it’s just a time piece and not the new normal.”

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Buried Pop Treasure – The Mommyheads Unearth Experimental ‘Coming Into Beauty’ Album

The Mommyheads travel back to 1992 for the reissue of “Coming Into Beauty.” Photo – Tina Lane

For The Mommyheads, it’s time to unbury a past sonic treasure.

The New York City indie pop quartet of Adam Elk (vocals, guitar), Michael Holt (vocals, keys), Dan Fisherman (drums, percussion, vocals) and Jason McNair (bass) recently excavated and restored their experimental sophomore album, Coming Into Beauty, after nearly three decades.

“It’s a trip reintroducing this lost record. In all honesty, I’ve always been embarrassed by the recording quality and artwork of the original version. Most people who knew about it called it the quietest record in their collection. It was the closest thing to looking at those horrible pictures of yourself in high school before shoving them back into the attic,” said Elk, who co-founded the band in 1987.

“It was such a relief to commission new artwork. Marc Strömberg in Stockholm has done an amazing job coming up with designs for the last batch of records. On this one, he fused five different songs into the cover image. In this day and age, when everything is so accessible, it just didn’t make any sense to keep having this gem off the radar any longer.”

Now available on all streaming platforms, Coming Into Beauty features a refreshing, remastered sound across 15 quirky, inventive tracks from The Mommyheads’ formative years. Originally released in 1992 via Small Machines, Elk co-wrote and recorded the project across two cities with two iterations of the band, including then-bassist Matt Patrick and then-drummer Jan Kotik as well as Fisherman and Holt.

“It’s the closest thing to stepping into a time machine and hitting one of those big brass Victorian H.G. Wells buttons for us. This really is an album about pushing the boundaries. It also helps to know that we were only 18-20 years of age at the time and didn’t know why boundaries and formulas even existed,” Elk said.

The Mommyheads push those creative boundaries through zippy electric guitars, spirited acoustic strums, bouncy bass, pulsating drums and flavorful keys while exploring timeless pop sensibilities and unconventional storytelling.

Originally recorded at New York City’s 6/8 Studios and Cloud 9 Studios in Chico, California, Coming Into Beauty eloquently depicts growth, relationships, self-worth and animal symbolism through the lenses of five eclectic musicians ripe for early adulthood.

Coming Into Beauty’s whole purpose is about taking chances, and it really makes it a fun listen all these years later. There were so many studios and environments involved that it’s really developed a sonic patchwork of sorts. Even the engineers all had extremely different styles of recording, ranging from experimental to conservative,” Elk said.

“Matt (Patrick) and I had very different approaches to songwriting. Matt was more of an emotionally intuitive writer, where I had a more quirky, mental and angular approach to songsmithing.”

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