The shortcoming of many singer-songwriters is that they put feeling before content; that is to say they focus so much on the feelings they're trying to convey that they forget to give the music itself life. This results in the dreadful acoustic guitar-playing mopester who ruins every open mic he can, an image I'm sure we all carry around in our heads.
Marissa Lauren is an interesting case. If you're the sort of person who gives a great amount of attention on lyrical content, you'll quickly see that the five tracks of Coming Undone are built around struggle. Lauren puts herself in a continuous battle, at times stuck herself, other times fighting for someone else, always needing to rescue or be rescued. And there's nothing wrong with that: I'm sure anyone reading this can name three acts off the top of their head who have defined their careers with such themes and motifs. However, Lauren is smart enough to remember that the package is just as important as what is inside and has constructed colorful backdrops for her songs.
“Hold Over Me” is a prime example of how she does this. She times her vocal harmonies strategically (at the chorus, naturally, but also during brief phases throughout, reinforcing key moments for emphasis). A recurring “whoa-oh-oh” gives what sounds like a Latin-influenced tune (thanks in part to use of a cajón for rhythm) a strong pop foundation. So while Lauren finds herself “like a puppet,” back-and-forth as someone pulls on her heartstrings, you find yourself infected by the hooks of the music, if not singing along.
Lauren's voice falls pretty close to that of Regina Spektor and this comparison will inevitably be strengthened by “One Day.” One of the EP's more minimal pieces, Lauren sings what is essentially a torch song against a bouncing, playful melody comprised of keys and synth.
Lauren's writing is pretty direct, based more on concrete imagery than the abstract. So it would only make sense that she's at her strongest when building an entire scene. “Worth Fighting For” puts us in the final fleeting moments before some sort of separation. Senses come into play a lot here: eyes lose focus, a tight, suffocating embrace and a silence that brings “sweet serenity.” The song is almost naked with the only instrument being an ukulele and while that may sound like a strange choice of instrument for the EP's downbeat ending the sparseness of it builds pressure as those last minutes wind down to the conclusion, becoming the most honest and meaningful song of the bunch.
I can't pick a particularly weak track from Coming Undone. There are instances where the writing could be tightened up, lines I can't make heads of tails no matter how many times I listen (“Car comes to a stop but I can't let you go/you make me feel chills/though there's no monster to show”—what monster would we expect here, exactly?). But this is ultimately a strong collection. Though described as demos by Lauren Coming Undone features top-notch mixing and mastering, and the usual rough edges of demos are nowhere to be found.
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