Spotlight

Miracles of Modern Science

“Exuberant chamber pop…that waxes and wanes with elaborate, rocky energy.” – NPR

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If you see Miracles of Modern Science loading their classical instruments into a New York rock club and mistake them for another band’s string section, they don’t mind. It makes for a bigger surprise when you hear what they can do with just mandolin, violin, cello, upright bass, and drums. Miracles of Modern Science push the limits of these antique instruments, reaching heights and depths unexplored by guitars.

The band began at Princeton University when vocalist/bassist Evan Younger and mandolinist Josh Hirshfeld discovered a shared boredom with the status quo of pop and rock. “We felt there was a lack of fun music that was challenging and a lack of challenging music that was fun,” says Hirshfeld. They found kindred spirits in other restless musicians from the school’s orchestras and jazz bands: conductor-by-day cellist Geoff McDonald, Aussie violinist Kieran Ledwidge, and finally powerhouse drummer Tyler Pines, who spurred them to plug their miniature orchestra into amps.

Their debut LP, Dog Year, sounds like an impossible collaboration between David Bowie and Béla Bartók, squeezing symphony-sized crescendos and complex instrumental textures into irresistible, danceable rock songs. MOMS’ lyrics, delivered by Younger’s unhinged baritone, look inward and then upward, communicating earthly emotions through space-bound narrators who would be in good company with Bowie’s Major Tom or Elton John’s Rocket Man.

MOMS recorded Dog Year simply, their dense instrumental counterpoint leaving little room for overdubs. Indeed, the band meticulously crafted and honed their arrangements down to the last pluck before taking their songs into the studio. “A MOMS song usually starts with a simple hook,” says Younger. “But that hook goes through this gauntlet of musicians never satisfied with ‘simple,’ until it’s transformed into something completely out there.”

“But after all that, we whittle it down until it sounds like a pop song again,” adds Hirshfeld. “Almost.”