Mandrew: The Wonderful World of Mandrew

The Wonderful World of Mandrew
Treefrog Records

I think I'm messily in love with a gloriously hooky Mandrew song. I can't get "Obsceneries" out of my head. Or my heart. It makes sense, though. I once fell in love with a mint-chip ice-cream cake. The pie was simply made: My mom dirtied her hands chopping up the Oreo crust, plopped the neon-green, gooey globs inside of it, and puttied on the sticky layers of creamy chocolate from a plastic tube. Voilà! Instant, prepackaged, heavily processed happiness. Once I finally figured out its insides were churned out in a cold factory and it was made with liters of chemicals instead of an ounce of pure love, I couldn't stomach the sugar pie ever again.

And sometimes near-perfect power-pop tunes are like that syrupy mess: sugarcoated love made in a mill and missing every natural ingredient known to man. But while the Twin Cities musician Mike Andrew (a.k.a. Mandrew) has perfected that formula, he loads it up with all kinds of honest, saccharine-free goodness—like love and handclaps, tambourines and gritty guitars, and perfectly crafted melodies reminiscent of Matthew Sweet, the Raspberries, and Alex Chilton.

On "I Can't Write," a song (like Sweet's "Sick of Myself") that's pure and lovely yet about anything but fondness, Mandrew even sings about his uncanny ability to produce songs that sound like rainbows and circus smiles and tiny pink elephants. At times his vocals recall James Mercer's, pushing and pulling like heartstrings. Other times his voice is filled with longing, like on the beautiful Brit-pop-inspired "Princess on the Porch," whose infectious chorus sticks in your gut like lost love. But mostly Mandrew's songs are all his, and pop doesn't get any purer than that.