For the last year or so, there has been one combination of genres that has really grabbed my attention. Whenever I receive an album that mixes electronic, trip hop, and prog rock/pop, I can’t help but fall in love with it. I’m not sure if that stemmed from We Are Kin’s release last year, or possibly Georgius (my album of the year in 2016), but 2017 has managed to bring several such releases my way, from Amarok to Lunatic Soul to the sweet shred of The Vikram Shankar Orchestra. So, when I received the new When Mary album for review, I was instantly a fan. The sophomore album from When Mary is called “Tainted”, and it actually releases today.
When Mary first caught my attention because of one name involved. The band includes former White Willow singer Trude Eidtang who handles vocals, synth, percussion, and glockenspiel. Other members include Christian Paulsen on guitars, programming, synth, and bass; and Vidar Uthaug on synth, organ, korg, and Rhodes. As you can tell, this is a grand effort from only a few individuals, and that is mighty impressive.
Like I said, the musical style is a mix of progressive pop, trip hop, and electronica, though progressive rock is still present, too. “Tainted” really delivers for me here, too. I love the pandering to exciting, interesting beats, as well as the awesome choruses. The album also features a certain amount of opera influence, especially on the first and last tracks. All in all, the album feels varied, eclectic, and unafraid to try something outside the box, even something that might take you aback at first.
The music might be absorbing and right up my alley right now, but I believe it is the near perfect vocal lines and choruses from Trude that really bring this whole album together. There is just something about her performance that feels very fervent, and the vocal lines feel like they were written by someone with lots of experience and a pop sensibility. The programming and synth on this album are also outstanding, with great tone and catchy composition. At times, they are absolutely ethereal.
“Tainted” is one of those albums were you might assume the first couple songs or singles are going to be great, but the rest are crap. However, the album just gets better and better as it progresses. It’s a complete package. Song after song passes, and each of them is wonderfully written. The album itself is spaced out with a prelude, interludes, and a postlude. These tend to be more ambient or even operatic, and they really break up the album into digestible chunks.
I have several favorites on this album. “Soothing Stitches” is a fantastic song with a great trip hop beat and unrelenting electronic tone. It doesn’t hold back at all. The vocal lines feel absolutely perfect, with the chorus being catchy as hell. “Wings of Wax” is another favorite. It absolutely blows my mind with how melodic it is. It is a bit rockier than the rest of the album, but the trippy beat and fantastic piano rhythm and the awesome chorus are practically a revelation.
“Out of Spaces” is a very spacey track with a sweet rhythm, soaring keys, and yet another phenomenal chorus. It feels a little introspective, but then explodes into the chorus. “Wonderful Warning” has probably the hardest edge of any of the songs. Again, another fantastic chorus that explodes out of a slow burn beginning. “Frequency” starts out in a gentler fashion but explodes near the end. The chorus is yet again amazing.
“Postlude” ends the album. It combines the trip hop, rock, and pop sensibilities of the rest of the album with the opera and neoclassical feel of the interludes. It’s like the whole album comes together at the end for one last finale. It’s a wonderful way to end an album that pulls you in so earnestly.
When Mary has really produced a humdinger of an album with “Tainted”. The songs are accessible and catchy, but still manage to be outside the box and ambitious. The whole album flows and explodes in excellent fashion to the point where I almost forget what else I am doing. If you like the new Lunatic Soul album or even just electronic music in general, “Tainted” will thrill you.
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