Review by Jacob Seim
Time to meet the up-and-coming MisterWives! This quintet, recently signed by Photo Finish Records, hails from New York City and is fronted by the powerful, sometimes maybe too powerful voice of Mandy Lee. She is backed by bassist William Hehir, guitarist Marc Campbell, drummer Etienne Bowler and finally the keys, accordion, and trumpet of “Dr. Blum.” These five self-proclaimed soul/dance/pop/folkers impress in many aspects. However, they disappoint in others.
The EP opens with its title track, “Reflections.” Instrumentally and melodically, it’s one of the catchiest songs I’ve heard in quite some time. The song fades in with Mandy’s piercing vocals that certainly catch your attention. She quickly brings it back down into a more pleasant, lower register that brings out her instantly noticeable quirky pronunciations and accent. The song progresses quickly, bringing in a very cool tom drum/clap beat that is coupled simultaneously with the pounding of a kick-drum that leads into the catchy and funky chorus. Listening to this song, it’s almost impossible not to tap your foot along. The song builds into a pretty standard bridge, but Mandy impresses with her huge range, exemplified by the lead chorus line that unfortunately is a bit hard to understand. Overall, this track is rad and shows the most promise and potential for the group.
Next up is “Twisted Tongue.” This angsty, in your face, girl-power track is probably the most unique song on Reflections. It’s catchy clap-clap chorus is preceded by an opening that puts you in a downtown lounge with Mandy’s soothing lower range, which adds its own very unique, old school, almost disco/ska-y pre-chorus that features Dr. Blum’s trumpet. Although I find the pre-chorus to be a tad annoying, I humbly tip my cap to MisterWives for doing something different and unique. The song builds only to fall into a beautiful, softer, half-timed pre-chorus-turned breakdown that also made me think twice about it. Mandy builds herself back out of the breakdown to finish the track on the aforementioned girl-power note with “you’re an asshole.”
“Coffins” is another perfect testament to how much more pleasant Mandy’s voice is when she keeps in that lower register. The beautifully morbid lyrics and darker tone, exemplified by a spacey keyboard, ghostly “oohs,” light percussion and violin, put together a song that nicely brings attention to the fact that death is part of daily life. It had me hoping that more of the EP would be as reflective as this track; I found myself disappointed.
Following “Coffins” is “Kings and Queens.” A very poppy, dance-y synth intro gives way to Mandy’s higher range that helps to create a relatively boring verse that doesn’t bring much of anything special. That being said, the verse breaks into an extremely catchy chorus—something that the group somehow manages to pull out in every single song, no matter the start. Following another standard verse and chorus comes a bridge that is pleasing. Mandy’s pitch is still high, perhaps a tad sharp, but her tone is exponentially more enjoyable.
After the up and down of “Kings and Queens” is “Imagination Infatuation.” A groovy guitar riff leads into this funky track characterized by an old school feel and electric drums (irony at her finest). Once again, I didn’t terribly care for the verse. To the rescue, however, was another brilliantly catchy chorus and great bridge. Mandy lets loose and goes on a very nice, attitude rich run—when she lets loose and shows off her range within her comfort zone, it’s pretty special.
Finishing things up is “Vagabond.” A two-chord piano progression pounds away as Mandy starts in with another melody that disappointed me—I found myself wishing she’d just bring her voice down. Again, another chorus that you could potentially get stuck on—whether you like it or not—for weeks, saves the day. As the song progresses, it grows subtly but finishes strong with another powerful bridge/chorus. It features a run by Mandy in the backing of her own vocals that I wish they would have switched around–having the run be the lead line with the melody as quiet backing.
Overall, I was impressed with MisterWives’ first EP. Although I feel there are things that could be improved, I remind myself that Reflections is their first release. I can certainly see a big future for these five New Yorkers. They show a lot of promise with countless catchy lead lines and a unique blend of genres. Most importantly, they stay true to their own sound and although I may not have enjoyed every aspect of each song, they do their own thing and that’s awesome. I will definitely keep this band in my sights as a group to do nothing but grow in 2014. You can find Reflections on iTunes now.
Recommended Songs: Reflections, Coffins