Dec 28, 2020
In an increasingly crowded indie scene, it can often be difficult for a new band to stand out. That is certainly not a problem facing Mamalarky. In fact, the Atlanta newcomers sound like just about nobody else. For the band’s self-titled debut, they have concocted a sound that pulls from indie rock, prog rock, psych pop, jazz, and more. The resulting off kilter combo is consistently idiosyncratic and frequently brilliant.
The fact that the band’s impressive patchwork of influences fits together as well as it does owes a lot to the excellent chemistry between the group. Singer, guitarist, and ex-Cherry Glazerr bassist Livvy Bennett met drummer Dylan Hill and keyboardist Michael Hunter Evan while they were in grade school. Later the band brought in Noor Khan in 2018 after Bennett connected with her while looking for a bassist on Tinder. Even the recording itself was somewhat patchworked, constructed from a mix of home recordings, singles recorded with Daniel McNeill, and finishing touches with engineer Jim Vollentine. The result is a DIY “anything goes” approach to songwriting, recording, and production that is refreshingly singular.
Mamalarky displays a remarkable knack for bringing together undeniable melodies and fascinating musical eccentricities. Tracks such as the opener “Fury” or “Schism Trek” bounce and buzz with a frenetic garage rock approach, while “You Make Me Smile” sways with a spindly guitar riff and fractal psychedelic chorus. Elsewhere, the band explores some jangly indie on “Drugstore Model,” seemingly slowing down for a plodding instrumental finish to the song before picking up for a zany synth coda. As well as the band brilliantly delivers fiery, manic psych pop, they also prove equally capable of creating watery synth-led tracks such as the floating “Cosine” or “Don’t Laugh at Me.” The most unorthodox track, though, is the warbling “Big Trouble,” which uses warped synths and a gloriously wild, guitar solo for its chorus. While it is occasionally difficult to penetrate past all these off-kilter chord progressions and constantly shifting song structures, the results are always memorable.
Despite the instrumental adventurousness, Mamalarky stays anchored in Bennett’s bracingly personal lyrics and memorable vocal melodies. Mamalarky feels like an Alice In Wonderland-style dive into Bennett’s restless inner world. “Drug Store Model” reflects on Bennett’s feelings on moving to L.A. and having difficulty fitting into the local scene, but it does so in delightfully carefree and memorable terms—“Mercury say c’est la vie/Eureka, I set free your thoughts of me to Venus Fly Traps/Who will eat the bugs of my psyche.” Distance is a recurring theme, also showing up on “Schism Trek” and the romantic frustrations of “You Make Me Smile.” The same event also inspired the closer, “Don’t Laugh at Me,” where Bennett drops some of the trippy imagery for a more direct condemnation of an undermining social scene. She sings, “Don’t laugh at me, please take me more seriously/I’m not kidding/One look at me, you must think I’m so naive/But looks deceive.”
Few bands are as original and distinctive on their debut record as Mamalarky. The band pulls from a myriad of sources yet does an impressive job of synthesizing them into a distinctive sound. Though the songwriting can sometimes be difficult to pin down and engage with, Mamalarky has come forward seemingly fully formed with one of the most inventive debuts of this year. The trip into the band’s weird and wild world is one well worth taking. (www.mamalarky.com)
Author rating: 7.5/10
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Average reader rating: 4/10