Sunday, November 23, 2014

Magnolia Memoir: “Pale Fire” (2014) CD Review

Magnolia Memoir lead vocalist Mela Lee used to work on Wall Street. But somewhere along the way she realized that what she should be doing is fronting a very cool band. Wall Street’s loss is our tremendous gain, for we now have Magnolia Memoir. I saw this band in concert a couple of times before hearing their new CD, Pale Fire, and so I experienced firsthand the joy that propels this group. If you get the opportunity, I highly recommend seeing them perform. But don’t worry, that joy is really well captured in the recordings on this CD, particularly in tracks like “Odds & Ends” and “Pale Fire.”

Pale Fire is the group’s third full-length release, and it features all original material. This is a group that doesn’t hold back, but just really goes for it. Check out “Hemingway,” for example. Mela Lee’s voice has a power, but also a vulnerability, which she uses well on a song like “Silence & The Ache.”

The album opens with “Ash & Bone” a wonderful pop tune with some nice work on bass. Of course, the main thing that hits us is Mela Lee’s distinct voice, which is sometimes sweet and innocent, and then exploding with a glorious power and energy. (There are moments when her voice reminds me of Holland Greco’s earliest work with The Peak Show.) “A house is not a home/when you walk away/and let it burn.”

It’s followed by “Odds & Ends,” one of my personal favorites. This song just makes me so bloody happy. Sure, it’s catchy, but there’s more to it than that. Check out these lines: “You had a brilliant turn/But it’s over now/But somehow/Your heart knew what you’ve got/You’ve been drifting through/A fundamental fog.”

Listen to Mela Lee sing the title line to “No One Like You,” and try to not be moved, to not be impressed. This track is really all about her vocals, accompanied by Alexander Burke on keys. This song is a direct message from her heart to our ears, stripped of all baggage and armor. “I would love you/If you let me/You can crush me/‘cause you get me.”

“Peeling Paint” is another excellent track. It begins quietly, almost tentatively, but then the energy comes at you like a force that could knock you on your ass if you don’t jump aboard at just the right moment. Here the group comes closest to rock, and it’s a song to get you moving. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Waking up every day just to suffocate/In old buildings with peeling paint/Day after day/Click clack on the track/Remind me I want back/Everything that they took from me.”

The vulnerability and passion are so apparent in Mela Lee's vocal delivery on “The Wait.” There is something heartbreaking about this song of longing and hope and desire. Check out these lines: “And I'll be true to the moment/I will hold on as long as I can/Baby, you're worth the wait/And I'm hoping that/You'll want to come home to me.” And then near the end she sings, “I'll keep holding on to the wait.” The waiting itself becomes the object, in place of the other person, during his prolonged (perhaps indefinitely) absence. This is a wonderful song.

Pale Fire ends with “Resurrected,” a joyous and beautiful track that builds perfectly. (Mela's voice at moments reminds me of Cyndi Lauper.) On this track, the group is joined by Joe Berry on sax, Ryan Franks on sax, Alex Budman on clarinet and Mike Bolger on accordion.

CD Track List
  1. Ash & Bone
  2. Odds & Ends
  3. No One Like You
  4. Hemingway
  5. Silence & The Ache
  6. Peeling Paint
  7. Pale Fire
  8. The Wait
  9. Life Before
  10. Resurrected

Magnolia Memoir is Mela Lee on vocals; Alexander Burke on piano, vibraphone, B3, keyboard, mandolin and synthesizer; Aron Forbes on electric guitar and acoustic guitar; Matt Lucich on drums and percussion; and Gordon Bash on bass. Joining them on this release are Javier Orman on violin, Joe Berry on tenor sax, Chris Woods on violin and viola, Ryan Franks on tenor and baritone saxophone, Alex Budman on clarinet, Mike Bolger on trumpet and accordion, Mark Gasway on guitar and vocals, and Dan Antunovich on bass.

Pale Fire was released on September 16, 2014. You can check out Magnolia Memoir's music  and purchase it on their official site. I’m looking forward to hearing more from this group. By the way, I don’t usually mention album covers, but I absolutely love the cover of this CD. The photography is Matthias Haker and the artwork is by Leo Canneto.

No comments:

Post a Comment