Under the fragile lead of a simple melody, Mansion on the Hill forges a uniquely surreal song in “The Man (With the Tie-Dye Mind),” one of the eleven inspired compositions to be found on their new record Eye Hustling. The approach that this group of indie rockers takes to pure pop fireworks in tracks like this one, the title track, and even the staggered “Bluest Skies” is both minimalistic and nonconformist, but it hardly leaves anything to be desired among music aficionados. In Eye Hustling, Mansion on the Hill issues a record as aesthetically menacing as it is melodically captivating, and that’s something almost any modern listener can get excited about.
One can’t help but think of early indie rock when taking in the heavy-handed sway of “Chips and Divots” and, ironically enough, the acoustic-based “When” as well, but this isn’t to diminish the originality of either piece at all. The influences in play here are as eclectic as the music itself is, and even in seemingly straightforward tracks like “Another Boy Wonder” and its neighbor “Old Parquet,” there’s a wildly eccentric tone to the foundational structure of every beat we hear. The instrumentation is somewhat difficult to peg in a specific genre, but these compositional concepts on their own are something that I can only describe as being completely tethered to the roots of alternative rock, in an era in which the term is arguably not as respected as it once was and still should be.
The titular “Eye Hustling” and “The Girl (With the Flower Child Name)” get the record started with a quick one-two punch you can’t go wrong with, and I can understand why Mansion on the Hill chose the former to be the leadoff track here. For only running a moderate three and a half minutes, it’s got a very sprawling arrangement and vicious riff that in many ways exemplifies the blueprint for the entire album in a single song. “Dirty Gold” is similarly deceptive in its juxtaposition of a barebones construction and larger-than-life fretwork, bringing to mind the likes of punk legends as much as it does contemporary hard rock, and frankly I think that all of these compositions balance each other out quite well here. Mansion on the Hill is a multidimensional act, but they’re not giving up any ground in favor of pop appeal in Eye Hustling.
There’s no debating that “Keep in Step” feels like an indulgently potent means of finishing us off in the album, but at the same time, it fits in with the latter half of the LP’s unpredictable twisting and turning as few other songs could have in this scenario. It’s the perfect capper to a truly incredible effort from Mansion on the Hill, who prove themselves to be one of the more adept groups in or out of their scene in this most recent release. I was instantly taken with the sonic depth of Eye Hustling, and after a few dedicated listens, I found it to be one of the most intriguing and provocative albums of its kind out this month.