Album Review: Meg Mac ‘Low Blows’

Megan McInerny, who as a musician goes by the name Meg Mac, grew up with an interesting mix of musical influences. Throughout her childhood she grew up listening to her dad’s soul records which included artist of the likes of Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Otis Redding and Bill Withers – whose ‘Grandma’s Hands’ she covered in 2014 on the Meg Mac EP – this was mixed with Irish folk songs in which her mum would sing around the house. Both of these influences are what makes the soul-pop sensation Meg Mac.

Ever since McInerny snagged Triple J’s Unearthed Artist of the Year in 2014 with her track ‘Every Lie’ she has been on a fast track to stardom. Her debut EP caused her to win Best Female Artist at the 2015 ARIA Music Awards, the same year in which she toured the US with D’Angelo. She then went on to spend four more months touring the US and signed with independent American record label 300.

Earlier this month Meg Mac’s first full-length album Low Blows was released via littleBIGMANrecords. The album is packed full of passionate American R’n’B-influenced soul and McInerny’s enthralling voice which manages to be equally powerful as it is vulnerable. The album was recorded at Niles City Sound studio in Fort Worth, Texas; this vintage-inspired studio became famous after American gospel and soul singer Leon Bridges recorded his stunning and successful debut Coming Home there in 2015, the album was special as it was recorded live and on tape rather than digitally.

Altogether, the focus of Low Blows is McInerny’s powerful voice which the instrument arrangement accentuates as she tells raw personal narratives through her wisely crafted lyrics.


Courtesy of rambo photography

‘Grace Gold’

The album opens with ‘Grace Gold’, a song written about the desire to balance strength and kindness. In the lyrics, McInerny talks about Grace – a person who is the perfect balance of those two things.

“Have you heard about Grace? Well she’s golden” – ‘Grace Gold’

When ‘Grace Gold’ begins you can immediately feel the soulfulness that resides in McInerny’s voice as she comes in with some smooth vocal riffs. During the verses, the bass guitar works with the vocals to really emphasise the strong lower end of McInerny’s voice. Something in which I personally found really satisfying was the dynamics of the song which changed in each section smoothly – in a way that’s not jarringly obvious but still noticeable. ‘Grace Gold’ explores many aspects and ranges of McInerny’s voice and is one of those songs which will have you nodding your head and tapping your foot the entire way through.

‘Low Blows’

Next up on the album is the title track, which also ended up being my favourite track of the album. In this song, McInerny sings about being in a situation where she looks back and wishes she had spoken up and stood up for herself.

“It’s all good, man up, cause’ I don’t say much when I don’t like it” – ‘Low Blows’

The song begins with instrument stabs with a delay effect which felt angry and powerful and was a great way to introduce the song. It becomes clear that McInerny has one of those voices in which you can really feel the emotion and meaning behind the words she sings, this is extremely prominent in ‘Low Blows’. Throughout the song, both the dynamics and instruments build which I think is fitting for a song about building confidence. The chorus is really catchy and will have you humming along once you catch on to the melody.

‘Kindness’

The track ‘Kindness’ was written at a time in which McInerny felt that kindness was overrated and gets you nowhere. This is not a sentiment she believes in but simply how she felt at the time and how everyone has felt at some point in their life therefore it becomes an extremely relatable song.

“Kindness and all of that, it’s useless, I’m sick of that” – ‘Kindness’

It became clear to me at this point that McInerny really knows how to introduce a song, as the strong drum beat that introduced this one really drew me in. Vocal harmonies have quite a present role on every song on the album, but it was most especially noticeable on this track, this is something that is quite rare to hear in modern day songs but I believe it should be used more often as when done right it’s a beautiful sound. Something that really took me by surprise is how the chorus and verse were quite contrasted. The way McInerny brings these two parts together without it sounding too jarring is truly clever; a drum fill and pause to bring the chorus in and some acapella ‘oo’s’ to bring the verse back in.


Courtesy of rambo photography

‘Cages’

McInerny wrote ‘Cages’ about how nobody really knows what they’re doing in life, including herself. Through the lyrics, she describes this situation as everyone being in their own metaphorical cages, and everyone just trying to get out of those cages.

“Nobody taught me ‘bout the cages, Lord I can see the pain from here” – ‘Cages’

‘Cages’ is a stripped back song with the minimalistic arrangement making way for an impressive vocal performance – in fact, a good majority of the song consists of only drums and vocals. This is a decision which I personally have not heard very often in music but it is used in Irish folk songs which McInerny grew up listening to. Nevertheless, McInerny’s soulful and powerful voice backed only by a drum beat is enough to give any listener chills.

‘Didn’t Want to Get So Low but I Had To’

‘Didn’t Want to Get So Low but I Had To’ is definitely the most emotionally jarring track on the album. The song was written about having rough patch after rough patch until you are just at the lowest of lows but still being able to understand that there was nothing that you could have done, just as the title describes.

“I feel it going down, when I’m home I’m not around” – ‘Didn’t Want to Get So Low but I Had To’

McInerny’s vocals and the rhythm of the piano seem to somewhat dance around each other in this melancholic track. In every song on this album the dynamics shift and change in a smooth manner, this includes ‘Didn’t Want to Get So Low but I Had To’ as the track builds in both instruments and dynamics throughout in a similar style to ‘Low Blows’. All in all, most people in this world need that particular song in which they can cry along to whenever they’re feeling low so they can just feel the emotions along with the artist – ‘Didn’t Want to Get So Low but I Had To’ is going to be that song for many listeners.

‘Ride It’

‘Ride It’ is a track that means exactly what its title describes; whatever happens, just ride it – basically, go with the flow.

“I got seven ways to fight it, I got a uniform to hide it, I’m gonna skip some gears and ride it” – ‘Ride It’

‘Ride It’ is the perfect song to pick up the emotions of the album after ‘Didn’t Want to Get So Low but I Had To’, as it brings back the same powerful notions that were brought with ‘Grace Gold’ and ‘Low Blows’. This song is packed full of impressive vocal riffs that will leave the listener gobsmacked and the slow guitar strums that come in from the beginning of the song give the track an almost western desert type of vibe.


Courtesy of rambo photography

‘Maybe It’s My First Time’

McInerny wrote ‘Maybe It’s My First Time’ about the first time her heart broke and how she kept revisiting the pain of that break in her head. This is something that we all have done as humans and McInerny expresses through the lyrics how she can’t figure out why we all do that.

“I only look back, won’t try it again” – ‘Maybe It’s My First Time’

Yet again McInerny hits the listeners with another impressive vocal performance with ‘Maybe It’s My First Time’. The bouncing rhythmic section of the track is bound to have the listener clicking their fingers as the chorus gives a choral vibe with its multiple harmonies.

‘Shiny Bright’

‘Shiny Bright’ see’s McInerny reflect on the hard-hitting fact that life’s not as shiny and bright as she originally thought it would be. This topic is sure to hit any listener too close to home.

“Well some they go and some come back but no like they used to, you best get used to that” – ‘Shiny Bright’

‘Shiny Bright’ is the second deeply emotional song to appear on this album, and it definitely has earnt its place. I personally believe that this track contains the best vocal performance on the album as it explores a wide range of McInerny’s voice. The instrumental arrangement mostly only contains piano chords, this forces the listener to focus on the amazing vocals.

‘Brooklyn Apartment (It’s Louder Than the TV and the Radio)’

During the writing process of this album McInerny spent a lot of time away from home in America, and during that time – when she wasn’t touring – she would stay in an apartment block in Brooklyn. While McInerny was living there she noticed she could hear all the other people in the apartments around her so she began to eavesdrop and build the lives these people lived in her head and that’s how the song ‘Brooklyn Apartment’ came about.

“You’re coming to a home near you that you know so well, can you hear the people that you didn’t know so well?” – ‘Brooklyn Apartment’

Written in a story-telling way, I believe ‘Brooklyn Apartment’ is the most wisely crafted song on the album in a lyrical sense. The track draws you in and makes you feel like you are there living in an apartment building with all the characters written about in the song – which I guess puts the listener in McInerny’s shoes.

‘Morning’

Lastly, we have ‘Morning’, a track written as a piece of encouragement to the listener as McInerny tells us to stop waiting for someone to come along and tell us that we are on the right track and doing okay because they’re never coming.

“They are waiting for someone to call them and tell them they’re right but they’re not coming ‘til the morning, they’re not coming at all” – ‘Morning’

This short minute and a half track is the perfect peaceful palate cleanser to the album, almost like a cool down jog after a tough energy-packed workout. I have always found the sound of a good rhythm of hand claps paired with a single or multiple vocal melody lines very satisfying to listen to and that was no exception for this song.

Listen to Low Blows on iTunes or your preferred streaming service.

Keep up with everything Meg Mac does by following her Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Credits
Photo Credit Metaxia Coustas