We here at Dusted have held off on writing about Mi Ami’s second album Steal Your Face because it seems incestuous and compromising and straight-up weird to review an album by a band featuring one among our ranks. But in the words of editor Otis Hart, “it seems weirder not to.” I’d switch “weirder” out with “patently ridiculous,” but my fandom is known. As is Doug Mosurock’s. Cole Goins too. Mi Ami is every bit a Dusted reader’s band as much as it is a Dusted writer’s band. So here we all are, two months after Thrill Jockey has put this out, and I have a very basic question to ask if you haven’t heard this album: Why the hell not?
What we have in Steal Your Face is one of the year’s best records for a host of reasons. The first jumps out at you immediately: Unlike “Echononecho” last year, which opened Watersports with Daniel Martin-McCormick’s instantly recognizable yelp and a quiet cymbal splash courtesy Damon Palermo, “Harmonics (Genius of Love)” brings Steal Your Face to life as though you were already in the middle of the album, infused with a breathless sense of pace and aggression. Martin-McCormick’s diamond-cutting guitar sends shards of notes skipping along Jacob Long’s grooving bassline, which then spray out like a skipping firecracker. It is the most impatient opener of the year.
But this is one of those trick firecrackers that keeps exploding. Like Watersports, the tracklisting is short, but the ground the San Francisco trio covers reaches far and wide. Take “Latin Lover” for instance, a dance beat anchoring a fairly straightforward rock hook as it devolves into atonality. “I want to dance with somebody,” Martin-McCormick sings at the edge of a scream. Fantastically, the mood changes even as the beat remains the same after four-and-a-half minutes. You’re no longer listening to a rock song — this is dirty DFA disco. The abrupt ending leaves downtime to catch your breath with “Dreamers,” which most resembles Watersports tracks in its use of space and lack of flat-out aggression. Its position in the tracklisting at half-distance is both natural and necessary.
That the album sounds more akin to their visceral live shows is not surprising given how much more familiar the band was with producer Phil Manley and how much better they understood one another. The rewards are plain to see. Each party gets the best from one another as Martin-McCormick’s guitar-playing and vocals go crazy alongside Palermo’s inventive drumming and Long’s bass anchoring the madness, right up to the final moments of the unrestrained closer “Slow.”
If you’re thinking at this point that Steal Your Face will appeal to people who just can’t let Black Eyes go, you’re right to a point: This does in some places feel like the purgatory between Cough and Watersports. It isn’t that, though — it is much, much more. This isn’t Black Eyes, or Public Image Ltd., or even the Mi Ami you knew, and it sure as hell ain’t Bob Marley. This is just a band at their very best pointing a fresh way forward for anyone lucky enough to listen closely. If that sounds like something worth investigating to you, pick this up immediately; if it doesn’t, you’ve arrived at this page by mistake. One way or another, you’re in close proximity to a better future for music. Welcome.