The musical career of John Maus has always been intriguing. His off-the-wall energy, matched with his delightfully dark and humorous take on pop music, positions him in a distincitve realm as a songwriter. Addendum, Maus’ latest release, a companion to last year’s Screen Memories, is a more laid-back effort in comparison to his earlier work, showcasing Maus in a somewhat gentler, less aggressive state.
Granted, Addendum holds onto the Maus staples: the cryptic, the '80s throwback, Maus’ warbled vocal effects, his deadpan lyricism – that’s all present, but the music itself is structured a bit differently. It’s not a radical shift for Maus, but his energy level is more subdued. A handful of the songs on Addendum are more relaxed and more low key and at times is what unfortunately downplays the album as a whole. Those songs aren’t necessarily bad by any definition, but they lack the expansive nature that Maus is known for. “Mind the Droves” is an example of this: a song that never quite reaches its peak and essentially teeters off. “Second Death” shares similarities… an unchanging, quieter side of Maus that’s somewhat unexpected.
Even though some songs may not hit home, Addendum still packs bits and pieces of what could be labelled as more of Maus’ traditional aesthetic. “Episode”, arguably the album’s strongest track, shows Maus shining as a confident songwriter, able to incorporate and shift what he needs to make his tracks feel complete. “Figured It Out” gallops along nicely while the album’s closer, “I Want to Live” proves that Maus is capable of harnessing a different approach. Here, he experiments with sound and structure in an almost time-warped fashion – something otherworldly and consuming, like a drug-induced trip. Its midpoint is injected with psychedelic keyboards and strangely summons The Doors (to a point). It’s truly a fascinating listen and shows Maus on the cusp of confidently venturing into unknown territory. Even if he isn’t fully there yet, Maus is able to generate enough to show that it’s within his reach.