Cougar: Naked, Mercurial Electro-Rock

If Patriot is any indication, the band’s intense focus on complex musical aesthetics, combined with its composition-through-correspondence technique, represents a giant leap forward, facilitating an impressive breadth of songwriting chops and stylistic influences.

“Stay Famous,” the record’s epic introductory track, sets a pounding drum line against a wall of wailing, swelling guitars that crescendo into a melodic interlude. “Florida Logic” centers on complex rhythms and syncopation, a nod to Henzie-Skogen’s rich background in Brazilian music and jazz, enhanced by the occasional metal-inspired riff. Deeper tracks swerve from a psychedelic prog-metal jam to delicate musicbox melodies to a honky-tonk ditty run through a laptop’s digital tinkering.

Far from being preoccupied with the moody, expansive super-songs that are the hallmark of Explosions in the Sky (a band used bycritics as a musical touchstone), Patriot instead hints at a vast array of disparate influences, from Ratatat to the Flaming Lips, Battles, Johnny Cash, and even late-1990s drum and bass.

“[People say], ‘Oh, they’ve got too much shit on the record; there’s a country song at the end of the record, there’s a synth song in the middle of the record, and it starts out with a guitar banger,’” Henzie-Skogen says.

“I think that a lot of bands out there find a specific sound, and push that sound as hard as they can as being that band’s sound. Our idea when we record is: don’t ever repeat something; don’t make a song that sounds like a song from the previous record. We all agreed that trying to write something that recaptures the same kind of feeling or palette is just basically second guessing yourself and considerably less creative and ambitious. I just don’t want to repeat myself, because when you start doing that, then it’s a job.”

Despite the challenges of distance, side projects, and other logistical obstacles, Cougar clearly continues to be a labor of love and a vital creative outlet for each of its members. “There are people out there that everybody knows and loves because they’re considered benchmarks of creativity,” Henzie-Skogen says.

“People like Radiohead and Bjork. They try to push their own boundaries every time they make music. To be able to do that and satisfy both people who lust for pop melodies and people who really enjoy experimentation—that’s a bit of the inspiration for the band, to get our experimental kicks out but also have band members’ moms think something’s really pretty. I think we all just try and make music that we want to hear.”

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