All Odds End, the Mantles' third proper full-length in six years, is full of scenes of stasis: Vocalist Michael Olivares sings of baths and bedridden Sunday mornings, delivers a paean to standing—"all day"—in a doorframe, and somewhat sarcastically laments missing his ride down south to Los Angeles. It ends with "Stay". The thematic focus on idleness befits the Mantles' breezy but rickety pop, and though the lyrics rarely despair, All Odds End is nevertheless saturated with a quiet, interior melancholy.
The Mantles, who formed in the mid-'00s, first garnered notice with their eponymous 2009 debut. The record mediated indie-pop, pastoral '60s psych, and the various locales known for jangling in the 1980s, all liberally swathed in tape machine gauze. Along with the Siltbreeze connection, the production pegged the Mantles as "lo-fi," a reductive category that was particularly ill-fitting in their case. After a downtick in output following the turn of the decade, 2013's Long Enough to Leave reaffirmed what the Mantles always sounded like: a band besotted with too many disciples of the Velvet Underground to list but defined by its immutable eccentricities.
That's even more so the case with All Odds End, where Olivares' ragged vocal melodies stumble between notes, emphasizing flair and character over the conventions of pitch. If on earlier material Olivares risked overstraining his delivery, here he's more settled, inclined to deadpan instead of whimper a snappy phrase for effect. Meanwhile, the expanded lineup augments his voice with greater presence and texture. It's still scrappy—with cymbals that fall like trashcan lids and an overall reverence for basic root notes—but while the Mantles continue to prize sparseness and restraint, All Odds End sounds especially confident in that decision. Many indie pop songs endear with their sense of delicate, precarious construction, but here the individually shambolic parts coalesce into a substantial whole. All Odds End suggests an ensemble of players who don't need to hold back; they choose to, together.
Olivares' metaphors for resisting change and liminal places usually have a lackadaisical tone, but the lyrical focus connects to how the band has drifted toward anachronism. Many of the Mantles' early regional peers have dissolved or resettled in L.A.—which "Best Sides" deals with in veiled terms—and the group never demonstrated much interest in consistent release schedules, touring, or otherwise playing the indie career game. Indeed, as Oakland and San Francisco undergo rapid and reckless redevelopment, it's easy to hear All Odds End as a defensive retreat inward, an attempt to suspend time. As a futile endeavor in reality, it's sad.