If Michelle Branch and Norah Jones had a baby, she would sound just like Maria Mena. The 18 year-old singer/songwriter boasts that catchy song on the radio with all the run-on sentences and poetry-like fast speech. You’ve definitely heard it before. You know… that song? The one with the rapid lyrics? Oh, you know…
Ok, let me clear that up. People may get confused with the voice behind the song, “You’re The Only One,” wondering, “Where have I heard this girl before?” Well actually, unless you’re from Europe or someplace over there, chances are you might not have heard of Maria Mena. But that will soon change.
She’s sure to be a solid hit. Her album, White Turns Blue, contains all catchy tracks, from pop acoustic to soulful ballads, but all heartbreakingly honest. Yeah sure, her sound may be a bit typical to the Michelle Branch kind of crowd, but the words are hers alone. Most all the songs revolve around adolescence and the pains of growing up as well as the exhilaration of love and youth. In “Just a Little Bit,” Mena sings about the insecurities surrounding her as something many girls can relate to.
Not everything is all fluff and fritters however. “Blame It On Me,” about teenage rebellion, speaks of it from her father’s perspective- an interesting spin on the ever-mysterious relations between parents and their brats. “My Lullaby” is a yearning, breathy song to Mena’s mother about her parents’ divorce. Written when she was just 11, it definitely proves her chops as a musician and a singer. “Lose Control” also shows her flexibility as she dabbles into jazzy folk in this playful track. However, a personal favorite of mine is “Sorry.” I find it the most achingly truthful, saddening and emotionally revealing piece I’ve heard in the longest (this from a person who listens to emo) – “And I say, Baby, I feel stupid to call you but I’m lonely / and I don’t think you meant it when you said you couldn’t love me / and I thought maybe if I kissed the way you do you’d feel it too.” Her vocals have a bittersweet twang that you can picture her mouth forming within your mind from the clear sound that reverberates from the speakers.
This I surely recommend to anyone who enjoys folksy, acoustic pop. And to anyone who appreciates musical honesty. This girl is quite obviously talented, and however catchy and possibly annoying you may find her first single (“You’re The Only One”), believe me, her other stuff is much different and most definitely not annoying. But I can’t make any promises that they won’t get stuck in your head.
Hatchie – Keepsake
Keepsake, the debut album by Brisbane dream pop artist Hatchie is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars
Brisbane indie-pop artist Hatchie (known to her friends and family as Harriette Pilbeam) is in the envious position of being a pop artist unspoiled by the many trappings of what it is to be a modern pop artist. Unlike some of her contemporaries who craft music by committee or with Sheeran-like self-importance, Hatchie is as of now, unsullied by the pressures of the cookie-cutter pop machine. Hatchie’s debut full length is a showcase for a talent who is supremely confident and composed in her abilities, and Keepsake is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars. The album is also a wonderful throwback to pop’s dreamy 60s influences that shuffle in and out of this delirium while working alongside distinctly more current musical touches.
There is the lush dream pop sounds of “Without a Blush”, taking cues from the best of what Stars and Goldfrapp conjure but heaping a tonne of Pilbeam’s charisma on it. Like her vocals, “Without a Blush” has this elegance that has the ability to elevate songs from being beautiful to grand. It is the kind of vocal elegance that really shines through on songs like the skittering, beat-driven “Obsessed” and the alternative, guitar-fuelled (yay!) “When I Get Out”. Indie/electronic closer “Keep” is a wonderful end to proceedings.
However, the great strength of Keepsake is not just its composure in how all the songs have been put together. It is also this genuine, natural-sounding quality that permeates the album- nothing overly written, overly produced or put together by research groups or music analysts. It just sounds like talent. We can argue that much of pop music is constructed to appease the moment- designed to grab as much attention as possible in an A.D.D. world. And sure, that can be said about almost any kind of music, but the resulting aural tone of Keepsake is anything but transient or transparent.
The best way to combat tepid chart-topping music is to write better pop songs. Songs like “Her Own Heart” and the disco-toned “Stay” are examples of pop music that come across as timeless. We are moved by the songs found on Keepsake when we listen to them today. And I suspect that in 10 years time, or in 20, we will most likely feel the same. It is rare to find the sort of ageless beauty you find on Keepsake.