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After making the best record of their career in 2013 with Hit the Waves, the Mary Onettes returned quickly with the Portico EP. Rather than sounding like a stopgap between full albums as many EPs do, the set is a fully realized, tightly constructed work that scales back some of the sonic explorations of Waves while still retaining the punchy, hooky songs. Starting off with one of the best songs they've written, "Silence Is a Gun," the Ekström brothers showcase their ever improving songwriting skills and their way with a synthy, gloomy hook. The best moments are when they hook their mopey melodies to a fast-moving rhythm track, as on "Silence" and the pulsing "Naive Dream," and hit a kind of New Order-in-a-snowstorm sweet spot. There are also a couple of moments where the brothers aim for something more glacially epic ("Bells for Stranger") and majestically sad ("Ritual Mind") and they hit the mark there, too. Portico is another nice step in the band's progression and shows that Hit the Waves wasn't a lucky fluke; they have the goods to make some truly great modern synth pop and come very close again here.