Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Merykid's concept album 'The Raccoon' pays off

January 25, 2011

The album as a piece of art has a long and twisty history. From long-form classical pieces with movements (which could be considered analogous to songs) to musicals in the first half of the twentieth century to proggy concept albums in the ’70s and now, there has always been some idea that individual pieces of music can compose a greater whole. Merykid‘s The Raccoon brought up these thoughts of history, as the album can’t be considered as anything but an album.

There are few to no verse/chorus/verse structures here. This is not an album surrounding a single; there is no single. This is an album for the sake of an album. The music only enhances this, as it is a mishmash of synth-driven downtempo/trip-hop, glitchy electronic beats, found sounds and acoustic guitar work.

Furthermore, it starts out with a stressful spoken word drama underscored by acoustic guitar, strings, a few electronics and the found sound of a train station. The boy is leaving the girl and getting on the train. The girl is dramatically hurt. The boy leaves anyway, making her promise that she won’t wait for him.

That’s the setup for the rest of the album. Yes, this an ambitious album.

Does it succeed? It’s very coherent musical piece of work, even with the mix of acoustic and electronic songs. There’s a solid balance of emotions and space to let them happen; Merykid never tries to pack too much into a song. His vocals are solid and interesting throughout, especially shining on the good-use-of-autotune “Two Wrongs.” The album flows excellently, as he knows how to use interludes and instrumental pieces to enhance the album’s atmosphere.

Lyrically, it’s a bit on the short end of the stick, as it took me scrounging through the press materials again to figure out exactly what was happening. Given the strong start to the narrative, it’s a bit disappointing that I couldn’t follow the path too closely. Thankfully, he does lay everything out in the final track.

Merykid’s The Raccoon is a very interesting, engaging piece of work that demands to be considered as a whole unit. If you’re willing to give it the attention it asks for and requires, you’ll find some unique and interesting moments within. It’s definitely a successful album, but I feel that the best is still yet to come from Merykid.

Say Hello To Merykid

July 14, 2009

The name of the game today is Merykid‘s newest EP, Boy and the Bird, and why you should get it. First of all, you should all trust my excellent taste and judgment in these matters. Failing that, take a look at my impressions, then give Merykid a listen. This guy is a singer-songwriter, yes, but his music is greater than that bland definition. It has attitude, sincere emotion, and creative writing. Songs alternately brought to mind other artists like Temposhark, Sufjan Stevens, and Keaton Simons. What’s more, all the tracks are equally accessible individually or as a whole, which is always a plus, right?

“Bad Things” starts things off right with a wicked keyboard intro and thick effects on the vocals. It comes off as kind of echo-y, almost like the vocalist is singing through a megaphone. The song wastes no time, morphing into a Temposhark-esque drumbeat and electronic bit. The lyrics on this song are simplistic, but vocals are strong and sound great: “Sometimes the bad things are the best things.” Overall, the song is set apart with tons of electronic effects, and 3D sound moving between left and right monitors.

There’s a totally different tone on “The Bird,” which features an acoustic guitar intro and clean vocals; it’s more traditional singer/songwriter territory. The vocals remind me of Keaton Simons a little, or maybe Jason Mraz. The addition of drums, bass, and violin at around the one minute mark flesh out the track’s sound and give it more character. Around 1:30, Merykid surprises with a transition into a jazzy breakdown as drums, piano, then electric guitar are added. “The Bird” gainsĀ  a lot of attitude here, great differentiation from more generic stuff. Strong rhythm and counter-beats among the different instrumental parts top off a great song.

“Goodbye Moon” is up next, and it takes a departure from the previous two tracks. It opens with marimba – a softer, quieter, feel than earlier. Add in xylophone, strings, and then vocals, the combination of which made me think of Sufjan Stevens (by no means a bad artist to be compared to). Vocals are good, though lyrics have something of a dark undertone with the likes of, “I am not the kind of man who talks about his problems / when they need not be told / and I am sinking deeper into the quicksand around me / and I feel I am alone / So goodbye to the moon, and goodbye to the stars above.” The instrumentation here is excellent, really making for great effect when the more traditional rock ensemble comes in on top. There are layers and layers of sound, walls of sound, all emotional and energetic and vibrant and flowing. It’s great stuff, really.

“Clean Freak! Ghost!” was by far my favorite song of the album, though I’m hard-pressed to offer a specific reason why. It opens with some great lines like, “You could be a beggar the way you ask me for change / I could be a mover how you’re asking me to stay.” I find it a little strange that this is my favorite, because it’s the closest to what I would consider a typical/generic singer/songwriter approach – acoustic guitar and vocals, little else. Maybe it’s because this one feels like it’s got the most emotion invested in it. It seems personal. Some electronic effects enter at the chorus, but they only add to the overall feel. “I’m a clean freak ghost / I cover my tracks and I disappear like smoke / I’m a desperate man / So I will be on my way as soon as I can.” This is also by far the longest track of the album, weighing in at 6:40, but it’s worth every second.

Boy and the Bird is a great release from Merykid. It’s got plenty of depth and variety, especially for a six-track EP. What’s more, I discovered that this guy is from my hometown, beautiful (hot) San Antonio. Hopefully I can catch a performance when I get back into the states. For the rest of you, check out his stuff on http://myspace.com/merykid, or pick up Boy and the Bird on iTunes.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

Recent Posts

Categories

Independent Clauses Monthly E-mail

Get updates and information about IC, plus opportunities for bands.
Band name? PR company? Business?
* = required field

powered by MailChimp!

Archives