From the release of their self-titled debut album in 2010, the Los Angeles trio, Mini Mansions, seemed to have great promise behind them. With strong 60’s pop influences seeping through that one can only compare to The Beatles, they seemed to be taking the band down a path of wandering melodies with a dreamlike flow. Following on 5 years later, the trio – comprised of Michael Shuman as vocals, drums and guitarist; Tyler Parkford as vocals and keyboard; and Zach Dawes on bass and drums – has taken a dark and ominous turn into The Great Pretenders.
A catchy, buoyant guitar beat of ‘Freakout!’ signals the beginning and sets the tone for the rest of the album. Contrasting the vocals of Shuman with a falsetto that breaks through for a cheering chorus of repeated ‘I’ve been down’. This fast-paced, light indie pop/rock component is continued into first single ‘Death is a Girl’. However the album shows more depth to it by taking on a psychedelic pop authority seen particularly on tracks such as ‘Ordinary Man’ and ‘Honey, I’m Home’. These two unique styles are both comprised in ‘Fantasy’, which bridges the album from one sound into the next and creates an unremitting flow.
For those who discovered Mini Mansions by their label of Queens of the Stone Age side project – Shuman plays bass for them in his spare time – might struggle to find a connection between the two, however will surely not be disappointed. There are a few flashes of similitude, predominantly in ‘Mirror Mountains’, but one would have to compare to QOTSA’s more recent establishments.
If you aren’t drawn in by the QOTSA appeal it is definitely hard to resist the star-studded guest list that is featured. Without even realising, ‘Any Emotions’ slips effortlessly into Brian Wilson’s soothing vocals. The co-founder of The Beach Boys seems like a hard act to top but it is directly followed by ‘Vertigo’, which gives Alex Turner – lead vocals of Arctic Monkeys – a shine in the spotlight. Turner’s signature verse adds a devilish undertone and cheeky quirk to the song without dominating it.
If there is any doubt that Mini Mansions have strayed too far from their original sound, ‘Double Visions’ brings it back and links it up with that pop feel coming through. It all ends on a softer note with ‘The End, Again’, that also continues the dreamlike flow seen in their previous work with a bit of a depressing touch to it. However it is a touch that cannot be taken too seriously as the whole album has a great balance between light-heartedness and dark emotion. The Great Pretenders is confirmation that there is still hidden talent out there that will hopefully earn the recognition that it deserves.
Written by Jess Vaia
The Great Pretenders by Mini Mansions
Released: March 23rd 2015