The Marica Frequency – Delicate

 The Marica Frequency – Delicate

The Marica Frequency – Delicate – Album Review

Well now…is this sweet of The Marica Frequency or what?  What a set up!  Given the title of the first track on the new album Delicate, the band has left each and every one of us oh-so-capable & unique music-journalists that are familiar with their music literally no choice other than to start our articles by saying welcome back with “Open Arms!”  You just don’t get opportunities like this every day I tells ya.

All kidding aside, it IS great to have this band back on our pages…and if you’ve been following along with us throughout the years you’re no doubt familiar with their name and my admiration for the music in this band.  Helmed by Christopher John Evans, The Marica Frequency has always been under the umbrella of the concept of a rotating group of players alongside him…and let me tell ya right off the bat here, the current lineup is working out quite nicely, yessir indeed.  You’ll see plenty of evidence of that fact as we dig into Delicate and check out the new tunes from The Marica Frequency today – but in the event that you haven’t checked out past postings of their songs/videos here for singles like “Hallowed Ground,” “That Voice Behind,” or their cover of Dylan’s classic “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” – make sure to click on some of those titles to find out some more about this talented crew and hear some tunes.

So…listen.  I’m already on record here throughout our pages multiple times expressing my love for the crackle of a record-spinning whenever I hear it, which means that the beginning of “Open Arms” obviously worked for me.  That being said, clearly if I’ve said it before, it’s been used before – but why it works so well here on The Marica Frequency’s first song and fits so well is the sound that immediately comes along with it…it’s almost gospel-esque, but it’s also got a throwback vibe to it that SOUNDS like it would belong on a record.  I’m not opposed to a nice crackle and into a modern-day tune, but that’s where you’ll find most of them thrown in to be clever, rather than actually suit the atmosphere of the song and scope of the idea, like it does here as “Open Arms” begins.  And yes, I get it…if I’m gonna pick apart every minute detail of this album than we’ll be here all week…I can’t promise ya I won’t, there’s a lot to talk about when it comes to this record.  I wryly said at the beginning of this review that we welcome this band back with “Open Arms” – but the opposite is equally true when you listen to this first song; it doesn’t get more inviting or interesting than this.  Between the textures in the music and the expressive nature & performance in the vocals, combined with the warm glow that continually rises to the surface as “Open Arms” continues on…I mean…c’mon now folks – this is the beginning of a record that your ears wants to hear.  Almost in the realm of a band like Spiritualized when it comes to the harmonious balance achieved between the music and the microphone, The Marica Frequency comes out with bold character and charming sound.  “Open Arms” builds into a subtle-but-epic and highly ambitious first impression of Delicate, and it’s crystal clear from the unrelenting beauty they discover in the melody of this album’s opening tune and the immaculate execution that the work has indeed been put in.  There’s such a remarkably comforting feeling floating through the warmth of “Open Arms” that you wanna wrap yourself right up inside of this tune & blanket yourself in the glow of its gorgeousness.

Not a bad start I’d say.

I’ll admit…”Blue Eyes” ended up being one of those tunes that caught me off-guard a lil’ bit…almost like I wasn’t sure I was going to like this song as much as I did before it somehow pulled me right on board.  I think when it comes down to the real allure of this tune for me, it was seriously all about the music and the atmosphere…followed closely by the backing vocals, which I think are 100% essential to “Blue Eyes.”  Spots where the instrumentation gets its most space to shine, it will…and the same applies to the vocals towards the end, where the backing vocals take the finale and turn a good song into a great one by the time it’s all over.  At the beginning it kind of has this lullaby-like vibe to it…which eventually came to grow on me…somewhere just past that first minute, the accordion comes on out, and gently soothes our souls as the song starts to make a remarkable transition into something so much further beyond the expectations you’d have from the way it all started.  Like all great songwriters, Chris doesn’t reveal all the cards at once, but instead hints at what’s to come and the heights of creativity & melody that “Blue Eyes” will go on to reach.  Marisa joins in to strengthen the backing vocals with her beautiful voice – and I’ll just admit to ya, I have NO IDEA what it is exactly that’s creating the amazing sound you’ll hear between the 3:00-3:30 mark…I mean, it could be a guitar…but whatever it is, is so twisted & morphed, and straight-up BRILLIANT…that I really couldn’t tell ya what’s actually creating that moment.  I just know what I like…and I love this.  “Blue Eyes” will go on to reveal one of the album’s most key trends, which is just how spectacular the endings of these songs are – the humble beauty in the final minute of this tune is right there on display for all to hear, and the artistic design is nothing short of stunning.

You can’t help but appreciate how ambitious this album is right off the drop.  It’s easy enough to pick up on that from the first two songs, but just in case you somehow missed it, The Marica Frequency ramps up the uniqueness in the way they approach “Where Have The Angels Gone?”  My only slight hesitation with this tune came with the heavy effects on the vocals as the song began…I wouldn’t say I’m opposed to them, I’m not – but it was just about every unfiltered moment that seemed to catch my attention the most.  In behind the effects, there’s organic melodic magic being made…and I did kind of wonder what a song like “Where Have All The Angels Gone?” might have been with that beautiful voice right in the spotlight instead.  I think you realize the potential that exists when The Marica Frequency breaks free of the effects and surges forward into a bold, unified, harmonious front where the vocals take hold of the moment and maximize both the power & the beauty in this tune as they leave behind the effects and dazzle you with melody au naturale.  At nearly eight-minutes in length, there’s no doubt that it’s an adventurous journey from point A to point B – but I’d imagine it’s a trip we’ll all be more than willing to take.  What I am SINCERELY WONDERING…is how on earth they somehow control themselves and only reveal what are clearly the song’s biggest hooks over the course of the final minute.  That’s more than restraint…it might very well be a missed opportunity, but undeniably, it obviously also makes for one seriously spectacular ending.  Like I was tellin’ ya earlier, you’ll find plenty of those in this lineup of songs…The Marica Frequency never lets up on Delicate and makes sure they’re invested in every single second you’ll hear.  I fully appreciate the artistic design of a song like “Where Have The Angels Gone?” – I think there’s a chance the beginning might be a bit sleepy for some out there, but the flipside of that coin is that the experience of hearing this song spark itself to life around the third minute becomes maybe even more remarkable than you’d possibly expect.  Almost like The Arcade Fire in a low-key moment, there’s a wonderfully organic connection between the melody & the music of “Where Have The Angels Gone?” – and considering the length of this song, it’s a testament to the band’s hard-work & effort in hearing how well they’ve used the space & kept the attention of our ears locked right in place.

In direct contrast, the next song heads in the complete opposite direction, keeping it short & sweet under three-minutes while also reminding us that we’re all on “Borrowed Time.”  I think there’s a lot of great things about The Marica Frequency…I always have since I first started listening…it’s to the point where I feel like I know when things have completely worked out exactly as they envisioned they would – and I can’t imagine them all not being fully satisfied with how “Borrowed Time” has come out.  All-in-all, it may be a short song, but it is one massively memorable moment on this record and incredibly well sung…this whole performance leaves you literally wanting for nothing more than exactly what you’ll hear.  I’d put the thanks right on Chris for the success of this tune…it’s one of my favorite cuts that he sings on Delicate, and he has such remarkable character & texture to his voice that it felt like he really suited everything about “Borrowed Time” from the meaning in the words to the sound of the song.  It’s an oddly quaint tune that sounds every bit like the comforting hand on your shoulder while the plug is about to be pulled on ya…or like how you might appreciate the delicateness of the pillow over your face right before your final breath.  ”Borrowed Time” sure as shit ain’t wrong about anything The Marica Frequency chooses to point out in the words, that much I can tell ya…but sure, it might be a little bit strange for some to find such a warm melody associated so closely with the icy cold hand of death.  I’m all about it…when I’m old and on the porch on my ranch in my golden years, this will be the song I sing.

“Written By Rabbits” is wonderfully unique and sensationally spirited.  After hearing the stunning performance Chris put in on “Borrowed Time,” to the breathtaking female-lead of Marisa Frantz on “Written By Rabbits” and the amazing avant-garde way she sings this album’s middle tune – you’ve really gotta admire what they’ve put across the microphone on Delicate.  I’ve always maintained, I know full-on awesomeness when I hear it – and witnessing Marisa’s performance & vocals on “Written By Rabbits” was nothing short of one of the highlights…of…my…LIFE.  I am beyond impressed with the artistic nature of this entire song and how blissfully organic, real, beautiful, and bold this whole tune is – to say this is one of the best cuts of the year would be an enormous understatement.  This might very well be one of the best tracks of ALL-TIME folks…that’s how strong the connection to the emotions flowing throughout the vocals & music of “Written By Rabbits” will make with ya, I fully guarantee it.  There is not a single word to be discerned in this entire song…and it’s just about the greatest thing you’ll ever experience with vocals; if this sounds like hyperbole, I assure you it’s not.  We’re facts first here.  Marisa puts on an absolutely mesmerizing performance the likes of which words will never be able to fully describe…this is a complete ‘listen and you’ll understand’ kind of song…the sound will make perfect sense to your soul without communicating a single word.  Absolutely one of the best songs you’ll hear this year without question, no matter what comes in the future to follow, “Written By Rabbits” is right up there at the top for me…I’ve heard a lot of great songs from this band, but this is all-out amazing.  The gentleness of the string sounds…the slightest splash of the cymbals…the way the vocals will harmonize or artistically flow in a radiant array of mesmerizing directions…absolutely everything about this song stacks up to a crowning achievement in The Marica Frequency catalog.  This song is genius.  This song is art.  This song is everything words will never be able to express, and it’s all I wanna hear.

There is ultimately damn near no song on earth that could ever really follow “Written By Rabbits.”

End of review.  Thanks for coming out.

Alllllllllllllllright…maybe there are still one or four more tracks on this album…but there is a good chance you’ll feel like I did…that right at the halfway mark of Delicate, we might have found its most remarkable gem.  I felt like “Hope” does about as good of a job as any song potentially could have in that spot in the lineup…and while it might have started on somewhat shaky terrain following such an impressive moment in time – this start into the second-half of The Marica Frequency’s new record turns into undeniable audio magic at about the 4:30 mark.  Quite honestly, this band has had me on the run for words and searching the furthest reaches of my mind for ways to describe what I’m hearing…and these fingers can still barely keep up with all the thoughts, feelings, and opinions I have about the music this band makes.  There are no words to describe how much they raise the stakes on an instrumental level when they wanna play it that way – and listening to the final two-minutes of music on “Hope” will absolutely convince you that all of the accolades and compliments I’ve written into this review are 100% justified, accurate, and again, factual.  From its weary beginning, “Hope” continually summons more inspiration as it plays…and at the start, if I’m not mistaken here…this tune is actually led by the accordion as it opens up, which is really damn cool.  And it gets even cooler if you ask me, especially when the violin joins in soon after and the heartbeat-like beat kicks-in; it’s rare to have an accordion lead the way in modern-day music…and it could be a synth of some kind I suppose…but whatever it is, it sounds great.  The Marica Frequency keeps the front-half of this tune quite spare and uses the space in “Hope” insightfully…it’s a very wide-open sound and the way they use the silence pulls you in just as close as the music does in this clever structure.  Then around the 4:30 mark…I’m tellin’ ya…they just start sprinkling straight-up magic ALL OVER the final two-minutes and deliver a jaw-dropping finale to “Hope” that’s completely unforgettable.  The composition of the songs on this record is award-worthy.

Frequency & tone…tone & frequency…it all plays such an enormous role in this band’s music.  When you listen to how clean & pure the guitar sounds on “Remain” you almost have to sit & marvel at it before you can absorb & admire the melody that comes along with it.  It’s so impressively melodic that it might even be a ukulele accenting the notes on the surface rather than guitar…or it could very well be the studio magic of The Marica Frequency at work…only the chefs know the full recipe.  “Remain” is another perfect example of just how strong this project can be, even at its most subtle – I felt like this was actually one of the most gripping songs on the record where I found myself hanging onto every one of Chris’ words.  I’m not going to necessarily say that my being Canadian was the key to loving this tune, but it certainly helped…”Remain” would likely remind a lot of my fellow canucks of Gord Downie’s solo music.  Considering he’s our one & only Gord & savior here in Canada where sleepingbagstudios is based, that’s extremely high praise.  There’s such a wonderfully grounded wisdom & outright earthy-sound to a song like “Remain” that it genuinely leads you to consider each line & lyric as a result…like you’re about to hear one of the oldest secrets of our planet via the hushed tones of Chris’ vocals and words.  You get a similar feeling of wisdom in the words of “Borrowed Time” earlier on in the lineup of songs on Delicate as well…there’s something about these tracks where The Marica Frequency strips back the sound to its most minimal that really communicates the core emotions that come with the words the most clearly.  Makes sense of course, there’s less to hear…but keep in mind, that also means there’s little to no place to hide…everything has to go right…and I’d argue that absolutely everything does here.  “Remain” is subtle, fragile, vulnerable, and poetic…and it’s played with such professional control that even here in the quietest & quaintest moments, the “melody and notes remain” spinning in your head hours afterward.  The music is memorable for sure – but literally, so is the FEELING you get from listening to Delicate…The Marica Frequency has really put together an exceptional record, 100%.

How can you not absolutely fall in love with the way “Breaking The Silence” begins?  Good lord!  The Marica Frequency has really put the work in on this album and it truly shows from every pore of your speakers.  Marisa’s backing vocals are as sweet as honey, and the way she complements & supports the sound of Chris’ voice throughout this song reveals another highlight performance from them both.  Clearly, I was onboard instantly when it comes to this tune…but what if I told you that it really does still find a way to get even better?  As they shift into the melody of the chorus of “Breaking The Silence,” The Marica Frequency establish one of the strongest hooks you’ll hear in any of these tunes for its stellar & accessible sound…and once again, they’ve really found a way to create musical magic over the course of this song’s last minutes as they head to the end of this album and the final tune of the set.  Right around the 1:30 mark…I mean, if you somehow weren’t already loving every second of this song, Marisa joins in to sweeten this right up.  Theme-wise, this tune explores the mix of fragile emotions that The Marica Frequency is known to incorporate into their material…they’re no strangers to contrast and being able to mix the light & the dark in a melody with a masterful touch.  But let’s be REAL here for a moment, shall we?  WHAT are they putting in the water over there where The Marica Frequency is living and how do I get myself a glass?  The timeless & classic beauty they latch onto in the melody at the heart of “Breaking The Silence” will practically stop the entire world around you for a moment just so you can listen.  In fact, it’s kind of like Beauty And The Boss…the sparkling sweetness that Marisa brings to this tune is 100% essential and a massive part of this song’s allure, but the other half is fully due to a Springsteen-esque design that sounds weary, but hopeful, and perhaps most importantly, relatable.  Much like on “Written By Rabbits,” Marisa is free to float through this song and contribute in wonderful ways without even using a word – and when combined with Chris’ lead-vocals in the chorus, they create such a compelling combination that you couldn’t possibly take your ears off of them; and you won’t.

I’d be very hard pressed to make a genuine complaint about anything I’ve heard on this album after absorbing everything it has to offer in-full.  I think The Marica Frequency has always given us something great to listen to in their music from the past…but if I’m being sincerely honest with you all, there’s almost no doubt in my mind that this is their best record to-date.  “Morphine” ends the experience on another extraordinarily creative highlight that truly becomes one of the album’s most engaging tunes – and after all the incredible things I’ve already told you about, ain’t that a great way to finish strong?  This last cut is a beautiful smorgasbord of sound…a stunning collage of audio awesomeness, seemingly random at times, but obviously fully composed and structured to be as uniquely different as it is.  This whole record has been really…there’s not a typical tune to be found anywhere in this lineup, and the vast majority of what you hear should have you in awe of what this band is sincerely capable of creating.  “Morphine” makes one last statement of its own as the album wraps up…a full-on experimental melody that hits a home-run so ridiculously far outta the park that you’d never find the ball – this one’s for the real fans of what’s happening here in The Marica Frequency…the people out there that understand how music can connect to us on so many more levels than just simply listening to it.  Songs like “Morphine” speak to the soul in the strangest & most beautiful ways we’ll never be able to fully explain.  Nor do we need to…words can just get in the way sometimes…sometimes we just need to listen to the spectacular sound surrounding us and appreciate the moment for exactly what it is & nothing more.  You drift out of this record with “Morphine” dripping out the final doses of what has been a truly groundbreaking record for The Marica Frequency; I know it’s technically still early on in 2020, but this is one of the best I’ve heard this year so far without question – they should be extraordinarily proud of what they’ve achieved.

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