Marian Hill - ACT ONE (B-)

After 2015’s spectacular EP Sway, Marian Hill had a heavy task ahead of them concerning their debut LP; match the effort, or better yet, improve it. Well friends, I’m glad to say they did the latter, and with flying colors. ACT ONE is crisper, catchier, and more mature in every way. The confidence that vocalist Samantha Gongol exudes is seductive; and that confidence is matched in full by Jeremy Lloyd’s calculated, inventive production; what they can do with only a saxophone and percussion is pretty incredible. In a world of over produced pop artists, this couldn’t be a stronger breath of fresh air. From start to finish the album knows exactly who it is, and what it wants to do. All we need to do is strap in and let it take us on a beautiful ride. 

Where Sway operated in a semi familiar fashion, ACT ONE seems very much like it’s own entity. Keeping with the genre crossing approach, it combines jazz, R&B, pop, electronic, etc. molding them into a beautiful, addictive, beast of a record. Starting us with the relaxed, piano led “Down,” setting the mood perfectly, it eases you into their sound; by the time you hit the voice modulated chorus you’re already committed. The second song, “Talk To Me,” which reminded me a bit of Chairlift’s “Ch-Ching,” takes it up a notch, showing another side of the group’s sound. ACT ONE'S greatest accomplishment is in their unique building of tracks, it’s so intentional, so methodical. Every beat, every note, serving a specific purpose, leaving no noise is unaccounted for. That’s not to say all musicians don’t operate with that type of precision, but Marian Hill is different. It’s strength is in it’s simplicity, structuring itself like the polar opposite of the wall of sound technique. It’s refreshing and original, and I have no doubt we’ll be getting quite a few imitators within the next few years. If I had to liken it’s style to another artist, I’d say the closest comparison would be Made In Heights, who’s 2013 self titled EP had the exact same effect on me as ACT ONE.

ACT ONE pushes sound forward, bringing to light a new approach to an existing sound. It just feels new. It feels good. By doing less, Marian Hill accomplishes more, so much more. The cool is dripping off the record, and that assuredness makes you love them that much more. Honestly the best way I could describe the album is that it’s fun. It’s so easy to connect with and once you do, you won’t let go. Instant addiction. The track I chose for the single is “I Want You,” which closes the album. I’m obsessed. I listen to it day and night and it’s never gets old. Hopefully you feel that too, and if it’s not that track then it will be one of the others. The album is so consistent and diverse, it’s going to get looped all summer long. Happy listening!