Mansions - New Best Friends
Record Label: Doghouse Records
Release Date: March 3, 2009
Christopher Browder and his solo-ma-jig Mansions have received quite a bit of chatter these past few months. A self-titled EP and Jay Reatard-esque mega project aptly titled Initiative helped grow his name and, most importantly, his buzz. Browder has been touted by plenty of AP.net staff members, but they like anything and everything so I was a bit skeptical. Scratch that; I was very skeptical. When comparisons are made between a glorified teenager and industry staples like Max Bemis or Conor Oberst, noses automatically stick up in the air: “Pshaw! I’ll be the judge of his so-called talent.” It’s not like those revered names did anything worthwhile at Browder’s age. Or am I forgetting something? The Wikipedia articles for both artists are frustratingly vague.
Mansions’ quantity doesn’t ensure, well, anything. Just look at me: hundreds of reviews, three of which are good. My age has held me back, but this is not the case for Browder. He clearly understands the intricacies and angles of electronic pop music. Effects play hide and seek with listeners, like how the ticking drums of “Holidaze” lead us into an acoustic therapy session rather than walls o’ noise. Or how the eerie droning of opener/intro “I Told A Lie” clearly works as background noise - while also making the song full-bodied and thematic. However, New Best Friends truly lives in the space between rock and contemplation; “Talk Talk Talk” hits loud guitar climaxes more than once, but Browder’s scratchily delivered lyrics always shine through (“And everything you did was so / Idealized and enviable / Your perfect life it got so old / So I turned my head”).
Those looking for a new Say Anything may be disappointed. The true comparisons bubble up in lyrical content and a lovable level of self-righteousness. Most songs play the “I’m right. You’re wrong.” card, and that’s just fine because Browder makes his points through interesting imagery (“Substitute Angel”) and reverb-filled foot tappers (“Gotta Be Alone”). But it’s his singing/speaking style that makes him easily identifiable. When he does sing, like on the acoustically anchored “Curacao Blue”, he sounds loads more emotional. New Best Friends uses both styles in an efficient manner. Chances are you'll never tire of either variation on Browder's voice.
Despite my life’s good luck streak (:knocks on wood:), New Best Friends has latched on. It’s really quite a downer: songs about ended relationships, liars, players, and even terrible music scenes. The guitars typically fight Browder’s less-than-appealing demeanor (“All Eyes On You”), but this produces complications begging to be undone. As Browder menacingly asks, “Have you ever really seen yourself / The way that everyone else sees you”, it makes you wonder how often our perceptions differ from those around us. This sentiment isn’t astoundingly creative or anything, but his wiser-than-you delivery makes the line hit with more force than you’d expect. It’s an answer most of us don’t want to know. It’s the answer Christopher Browder will continue to give.
Recommended If You Like: Say Anything, Bright Eyes, anything, Aqueduct, everything