Sound — 9
Indescribable might be a word that sums up Mercury Rev, but if one thinks in terms of genres, they have an uncanny ability to combine elements of dream pop, ambient, rock, psychedelic, americana, folk and electronica into their bizarre and unique melting pot of sound. The Secret Migration features a crisp, clear and modern sounding production, and retains a warmth and depth about it, most evident in the Drums, Bass and Piano. The band are as tight as ever, and each instrument is in it's place. The guitar isn't so prominent but instead weaves about with ebowed notes, reverb drenched volume swells, minimalist arpeggiations and jagged chord phrasing to compliment the rest of the band. Jonathon Donahue's vocals are great, and because of his high frequency, slightly nasal voice, make the lyrics decipherable more often than not, which is important for a band that writes such interesting lyrics. Mercury Rev have managed to write and produce an album with diverse themes and atmospheres, but without sacrificing the coherence of the whole. Many different emotions are on display here from the eerie darkness of 'Black Forest (Lorelei)' to the fiery intensity of 'Vermillion' and on to the tender sorrow of 'First-Time Mother's Joy (Flying)'. Other standout tracks include: 'In a Funny Way' and 'My Love'.
Lyrics — 9
Whereas some of their contemporaries eg. Radiohead tend to focus on society / politics, Mercury Rev instead choose to focus on the inner world, relationships, nature and imaginary(? ) visions of life, filled as they are with the myriad of beings and forces that populate the universe. I commend them for being one of the few bands out there willing to take this creative path. The album's lyrics read like the story of a being seeking within themselves, exploring the wonder and magic of nature and the realms of love, relationships, transcendent experiences and dreams. Anybody who appreciates the benefits of inner retreat and reflection will find much value in the lyrics, as they are articulate and delivered with such power and intensity by the band's vocalist, Jonathon Donahue. The meter of the Lyrics and the Vocal Melodies are both outstanding on the Secret Migration. Lyrical highlights include those on: "She has a way that is beautiful to behold/Movements of silence and calm/A universe of life folded up inside her/A symphony of strangeness and charm/An' she knows." The descriptions of the natural forces at work in 'First Time Mother's Joy' are also just awesome and work beautifully with the somber piano and Jonathon's soft, sweet voice. The CD features a beautiful booklet with all the lyrics, so be prepared to be transported!
Overall Impression — 9
This is arguably Mercury Rev's finest hour. Perhaps it's strongest quality is it's ability to sit the listener down for the duration of proceedings and draw them into a world within a world. Aesthetically, there is balance and harmony throughout, and a special mention is to be made of the artwork, which is just exquisite, with a somewhat esoteric feel running though the various images. The Secret Migration is a journey. A musical vision both coherent and diverse and every aspect of it exudes a quality and depth uncommon in modern music.