On Matt Mondragon’s second album, Manic Melodies, he saddles the line between fun, groovin’ beats and deeply doleful introspective moments. With a voice comparable to Kristian Matsson of Tallest Man On Earth, a strumming sensibility akin to Nick Drake and a rough edge like Jack White, Mondragon has all the right ingredients. This is music to throw on at night, right after the sun has set, the cake is coming out of the oven and maybe you’re headed to the ocean.
The thirteen-track album from the Denver, Colorado based artist contains an assortment of acoustic and electric singer-songwriter, alt-rock tunes. At points, it’s just Mondragon and his guitar. Mondragon hits his stride when he pairs down the music and simply combines minimalist style guitar plucking, insightful lyrics and maybe a light drum. The track “All is Well (raindrop)” represents this paired down version of Mondragon. He sings “selfish little raindrop, tell me what you’re rushing for,” to a slight snare drum and lovely plucked guitar.
Some of the tracks on Manic Melodies contain spectacular rhythms that combine with Mondragon’s heart melting voice to create delightful moments. The track “Just Like You” is an example of this magic. It’s wonderfully catchy, but also has an edge thanks to the slightly off-kilter background vocals that work oh so well.
While Manic Melodies contains some fantastic tracks, it lacks overall consistency. The album represents a collection of songs written over the last four years, and a narrative for the collection proves difficult to abstract.
The songs make statements on their own, but often don’t make sense together musically or lyrically. For example, Mondragon often manipulates his vocals. However, the manipulation takes a variety of forms and therefore a variety of moods. Each track lives on it’s own island. These differences distract from the beauty present on some of the songs.
Although some tracks could have been made more minimal and edited with a closer ear, overall Manic Melodies is a lovely album that also has bite. Mondragon gives us an introspective, self-exploratory album with Manic Melodies. The intimate recording style and insightful lyrics often create lovely musical moments.
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