The genesis of the New York City duo Marion Avenue was sparked in 2013 when singer songwriter Juan I. Garcia asked fellow singer songwriter Tracy Mackay to form a band with him. There was a small stipulation Garcia had behind this invite. That stipulation was to make music that combined modern sounds and effects with acoustic guitars, live drums, et al and set original and deeply emotional lyrics to this new sound. The effort was a gamble for both Mackay, who had already established herself as a Celtic music singer in Chile, and also for Garcia who had left a rock band that he was playing in. By early 2014 Marion Avenue had already started recording their first few tracks with producer Jamie Muffett at New York’s Mercy Sound Studios.
During the recording process they found themselves wanting to explore more sounds and textures than just the ones they already had laid down. The pair decided they wanted to incorporate saxophone and clarinet into the mix and so invited multi-instrumentalist Matt King to record along with them. Though still not completely satisfied, the band and producer both decided on adding a bass player, which is how a friend of Garcia and King, Robin Mayer, was asked to join in on the recording sessions.
The result of those recording sessions finally resulted in the six-song EP In Transit, which clocks in at just under a half hour’s worth of music. After a brief interlude intro track, In Transit kicks off with “Plastic Light.” The instrumentation, shadowy electronic noise creeping in the background and the fingerpicked tinny guitar, coupled with Garcia’s scratchy and effects heavy vocals, recalls the sound of early Sparklehorse albums. Though as “Plastic Light” moves on, it gets poppy rather quickly with up-tempo though shadowy electric guitar hidden in the background, as Garcia’s voice takes most of the songs precedence, with Mackay backing him up. One thing to note here is how well the two harmonize together.
This harmonization continues on the psychedelic slow rock jam “The Caveman.” In my opinion the best song on the album, due not only in part to the aforementioned harmonization, but also because it really sees the band combining the earlier talked about electronic elements and mixing them here with a bit of alt folk. The catchy chorus of “And I’m worn out and insecure” plays out like a heartfelt lullaby.
The album closes with the folk rock “One Suitcase” on which Mackay finally gets her time to shine in the lead vocal spot. She doesn’t waste it either, as her powerful and beautiful vocals float above the acoustic alt country twang that drives the song ahead.
In the end, In Transit is a good starting off point for a new band. For as short as the EP is, each of the songs is able to stand out on its own, and in that way the songs on In Transit contain a diversity, which is something that many artists who release a first record or EP fail to realize. Though to play a slight devil’s advocate to my own phrase, In Transit, for as short as it is, the songs are all over the map musically which lends to a mixed bag feeling overall. Although one thing is solid, and that is that Garcia and Mackay have a definite chemistry and they know what they’re doing musically. Now all they have to do is to get it all to sync together.
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