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Unfinished Mansions

Coming March 3 from Doghouse Records, New Best Friends, the debut album from the Louisville, KY/Winston-Salem, NC, group Mansions, is an entertaining release but presents a somewhat pigeon-holed view of the band.

In a world where, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, originality is not as highly valued by the masses as it once was, New Best Friends seems to fall victim to that desire to fit in. Mansions seems to be largely dominated by vocalist Christopher Browder. This album presents Browder as an extremely talented musician and lyricist with a voice that sounds like a fusion of Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and blink-182/Angels & Airwaves’ Tom DeLonge. Unfortunately, the album also shows that Browder has stuck himself into the contemporary world of pop-emo. In essence, Browder just didn’t seem to bother to write any songs for this album that aren’t full of regret and sadness.
It’s okay to be happy on occasion. People like happy music.

That being said, Browder shows a lot of potential in his songwriting skills. The album’s opener, “Talk Talk Talk,” is an instantly accessible and catchy track that shows a lot of broad appeal. The same goes for “Gotta Be Alone” and “The Worst Part.” But, as stated earlier, unless Browder can climb out of the typical pattern of emo-tinged lyrics, he won’t get ahead of the pack. The lyrics on every song end up coming off as bitter or regretful. I’ve always been of the firm belief that all albums need a variance of emotional highs and lows. This album simply stays with the lows, and that is unfortunate.

Browder’s distinctive voice shines on this album and, even though his vocal style emulates other artists, it helps make the album memorable. It makes the emotions behind the songs feel authentic. If he could just find some emotional variety in the songs and put that same authenticity behind those emotions, I’m sure many hearts of many teenage girls would swoon at this guy’s voice while many music-savvy fellows like me could appreciate Browder’s obvious talent.
As the last track of New Best Friends closes, it’s easy to see that Mansions has a lot of potential. The group is highly marketable as it is and I’m sure they will receive a lot of attention very soon. For now, some more variety in lyrics would make them even more appealing.