Marian Hill - Unusual
Trip Hop duo Marian Hill are back with their sophomore release Unusual. Their debut record captured some of the magic that their first EP Sway did. It had that same deconstructed trip hop flavor, but on this new album they seem to have rediscovered their swag. The first true standout is "Differently" which absolutely blows their style out of the water with slick 90s inspired beats and Samantha Gongol's stellar vocals coming in both full voiced and chopped up. They way they use her vocal to create electronic punches is second to none. Everything about this album bops, it puts a beat on the floor and then lets you sway your life away to it while the vocals stab in out of nowhere. They have found that great fusion between a hip hop delivery and jazz yet instead of feeling clunky it is super super slick. This album all at once can sound like one of the best things you've heard but also far to heady for it's own good. That is the balance that Marian Hill are always trying to strike, super artistic but also accessible. Each track is unique, but they all do have this really similar structure even when the duo is experimenting with different sounds. The overall vibe is the same for almost the entire record, which makes the later tracks loose a bit of their impact. The jazzy love song with electronic punctuations becomes a bit tiresome which is something their debut suffered from as well.
It is strange to enjoy these songs on their own, but all strung together they simply loose some of that magic. I think that is why the EP was so successful, it got in and out without dragging things to the point where they get boring. They almost need to add some kind of bigger dance beats, or at least a track that isn't so incredibly sparse. Each one of these songs feel like the belong in a basement club, dark with very few people watching what is happening on stage. Only a few songs reach the four minute mark, but it feels like they are all six and a half minutes long because they become so repetitive without being dancey. That is why "Go Quietly" is such a welcome departure, it ups the tempo some and gives you this almost minimal super electro EDM sense, without full going there. The song is Marian Hill's version of a club banger and it really works well. There is a lot to like about this record, and some that you have to get through but in the end it shows massive creativity and a new stlye of music that is just putting it's roots into the ground. We will ahve to wait and see what it grows.
7.5 out of 10