Marian Hill have released their sophomore record titled ‘Unusual’. The band comprises of Samantha Gongol (vocalist and songwriter) and Jeremy Lloyd (producer and songwriter) epitomize the unusual label, as they turn the usual pop starlet and unknown producer method on its head. As both members write, it allows for the creative direction of the group to flourish giving them both a chance to be highlighted. This direction is a complete success for the duo in the pop industry as their second album oozes innovation whilst possessing a foundational understanding of traditional commercial music.
The opening track “Subtle thing” could almost blend as the B-side to their breakout single “Down” which peaked at #14 on the Billboard Charts back in April, 2017. One year later and the band has hit their stride boasting a familiar tempo and another infectious energetic hit. Samantha’s vocal intonation and delivery is beautifully complimented by Jeremy’s subtle bass driven backing track. “Differently” uses a style more akin to hip hop as the hook provides a formulaic pattern for impact (the last word is emphasized for effect: me, sea, she, different-ly). Both tracks display a strong start for the band, having touched on how traditional albums succeed by stacking their best works early on.
The peak of their collaborative creation on the record is heard on ‘All Night Long’. Firstly, the vocalist possesses a knack for emotional lyricism expressed through her singing. The line “You’re not my lover, baby, you’re my favorite song” reveals one of two things: she (Samantha) is at the stage of liking someone and not yet loving them, or, people’s favourite songs come and go, and so, he (the love interest) will be replaced by the new next best thing. Good lyricism makes you wonder if it could be both or just up to the discretion of each individual listener (perception). Secondly, the producer lays a platform for the track’s journey. Mentioned earlier in a pun, Jeremy utilizes his sound repertoire by looping and layering key aspects. The choice to include a succinct drum pattern, a bevvy of electronic echoes and what sounds like a brass instrument outro underpins the artistic chemistry between players.
Looking more in depth, on “Don’t Do It” the production alike most tracks on ‘Unusual’ are cut and chopped but it seems more evident here, there is a constant holding back/threshold of intensity. My comparison is of a manual car revving in second gear. Is Marian Hill trying to achieve a certain sound aesthetic as the band’s signature or is the intensity being restricted? Another comparison is watching a thriller in a horror movie obsessed reality. Whatever the case may be, the answer to this question doesn’t hinder on the Marian Hill’s success however will hopefully shine light on their progression to come.
Other standout tracks on the sophomore record are ‘No Hesitation’ and ‘Go Queitly’. ‘No Hesitation” is another byproduct of balanced effort, with the lyrics “I don’t want” sung and then duplicated with outstanding effect to nail the point home. And who wouldn’t want to “explore levitation” over “cool conversation”? ‘Go Quietly’ is a remarkable final track; winding down from the album’s pace, yet leaving the audience wanting more – “take me back in time”. If you do want more, Marian Hill is comparable in terms of band composition to AlunaGeorge, Broods and Purity Ring.
When considering ‘Unusual’ as a whole, 10 tracks are long enough to warrant a muso’s appreciation, while short enough to guarantee rapid consumption from the first spin.