Maxed Out is the newest addition to the quite extensive discography of Options, the solo project of Chicagoan multi-instrumentalist Seth Engel. Bridging the gap between singer/songwriterism and math rock, Engel usually delivers his thoughts and feelings in a stream-of-consciousness-like manner, evoked by the way he composes his songs. Instead of allowing musical space to let the music do its work, most of the time he leaves just enough space for his lyrics to fit in, which in turn results in irregular rhythmic patterns, earning him all those sweet math crews.
This is still the case on his latest record, but not to the same extent as before. On Maxed Out, Engel is still as poignant as ever. His songs just seem so much more fleshed out; there is a lot more focus on melodic interplay and clever use of repetition in already rather short songs. While some of his earlier work felt more like a rough sketch, on Maxed Out this is never the case.
Engel is a record engineer and knows his stuff really well, and out of all his Options releases so far this one sounds the best. While I love the lo-fi aesthetic of his previous work, the production feels richer and proper for a musical project with such a fruitful output over the years. The rawness of Driftwood MetaphorandWhat You Wantmay have been a major part of what drew me to the music, but I must admit that the new sound suits Options much better than I would have expected. Maxed Out is an excellent, emotional record, by an artist that is difficult to compare to anything else in the cosmos that is math rock.