The Marica Frequency – Washed Away – Album Review
If there’s anyone else out there that wants to help me convince The Marica Frequency to put their tunes on Bandcamp so that I can get my hands on a copy of their catalog one day, I’d greatly appreciate the assistance. Most of us are streamers these days I suppose…but I’m old-school. I’m playing music everywhere I go and everywhere I am at all times…and heck ya, even when I’m not connected & online. Especially so, if I’m being honest with ya.
Anyhow. I’ll take what I can get when it comes to this band. As many of you regular readers are familiar with – I’ve been extremely stoked about the music of The Marica Frequency as of late – everything I’ve heard from this band has been an indication of them surging into their prime, with each record seeming to progress the magic of their music even further. Last year in fact, they ended up making my top-ten list of the year for their work on the album Delicate in our annual quest for our Best New Sound – and rightly so! Of course I stand by that decision. Like I said, if I had the files, I’d still be listening to it right now. The real bottom line is, The Marica Frequency makes a style of music that feels like it was made for me…and the perhaps the most beautiful thing about that fact is that I know I won’t be alone in feeling that way – this is the kind of band that makes a special kind of music that speaks to us all in a unique voice; what you hear will connect with each of us as individuals through a whole variety of ways.
One of those elements, is most certainly gonna be the sensory sound that you hear. The Marica Frequency is truly gifted when it comes to creating songs that you can feel right inside you – and that starts immediately with the texture-laden layers of “Late In The Day” as their new album begins. Almost as if they’re mimicking the feeling we get when we wake up later than we expected, start to rub the sleep of a near-coma away from our eyes, realize it’s actually the afternoon, and try to make some sense of the day around us as it all comes into focus slowly. In the distance, you can hear voices…perhaps from a nearby television…perhaps drifting in through the window…or maybe they’re just the echoes in your mind from the dreams you were slumbering within only mere moments before. You hear nothing BUT beautiful tones and textures at work as this intro begins…and within a single two & a half-minute experience, it’s more than clear that The Marica Frequency is still continuing to ride their hot-streak of incredibly captivating material via the most gentle & delicate means you’ve heard this side of Sigur Ros.
Production always plays a significant role in their records, and you’ll find that’s also true once again when it comes to the lineup of songs on Washed Away. Listen to the spectacular recording on the percussion of “Stay” as it begins and the distance in the room between you and the instrumentation you hear – the clarity and space is straight up stunning. After about a minute’s worth of intro into “Stay,” The Marica Frequency reveals an absolutely spellbinding melody and level of accessibility you don’t always hear from the band – they’re more than capable of warmth when that’s the focus, and the highly inviting sound of this tune is all the proof you’d need to know that’s true. While the poetic, evocative and thought-provoking lyricism in this band will almost always incorporate a high degree of contrast to the mix through the vocals & words we hear – “Stay” is built on entirely invitational vibes that beckon you to sit down & have a listen with your undivided attention. The fact that they’ve got such impressive and impeccable musicianship almost works both for & against them on this first cut – I freakin’ LOVE everything I hear in the instrumentation here, but I’ll admit, I was so taken by the way the vocals melody came out that I wanted a whole heckin’ lot more of that too – and this is a five plus-minute long tune! So believe me when I say, it’s not like you don’t get a lot of what you’ll love – you’ll just want MORE of it – and is that really so bad? Every time “Stay” ticked past its first minute and locked right into the vocals, I felt like the welcoming vibes of The Marica Frequency were pretty much at an all-time high here – and that makes for quite the start to a record, wouldn’t you say? “Stay” essentially guarantees that everyone out there is gonna keep on listening – you’ll find plenty of inherent catchiness within the vocals and music that’ll satisfy the masses, but also the consistent infusion of artistic depth that will completely satisfy and thrill their longtime fans, like myself. The Marica Frequency has this inherent knack for creating brilliantly crafted material that feels like it just naturally came flowing out in the studio in the magic of the moment; you know it’s practically painstakingly designed and rehearsed stuff based on the unimpeachable quality of their music, but it all sounds so incredibly organic, every time.
I’d assume that who we’re hearing on “Guess This” is the fabulous Marisa Frantz…a longtime essential ingredient to The Marica Frequency’s amazing vocals, though not always in the lead role like she is here. A delicate acoustic-based tune, her voice makes this bold, the lyrics give it all a humble vulnerability and heavy emotion that hangs in the air like a hovering cloud threatens to rain on your parade – and the push/pull in that tension between beauty and despair is explored in extraordinary ways on this song. Just a hint of ambient sound in the mix…you can hear waves in the background…you’ll hear violin melodies that could easily reduce you to tears…and the main vocal hooks, consisting of what some might call audible sighs, and some would say they’re humming along – “Guess This” is a highly internal tune that dives deep into the thought process and how that guides our actions & informs our emotions. Or at least, that’s what I’m getting out of it – I don’t profess to be the guy that’s gonna be able to fully keep up with the creativity and imaginative ways of The Marica Frequency…as usual, all I can really do is offer my take on what I hear, and call it like it all hits me. You feel the full weight of this tune heavy in your chest as it plays…a tangible melancholy you can measure…and as you listen to the words in the second verse, you can hear the uplifting thread of hope, even if it’s only fleeting, and momentary. I hate to tell ya that might not know this yet…but that’s kind of what life is like y’all…hope is a temporary piece of what we experience that leads directly to results in most scenarios outside of Schrödinger’s box, for better or worse. Marisa sounds as spellbinding as ever…the vocals on this tune genuinely steal the show when it comes right down to it – but that’s not to take one iota away from the incredible structure, design, or sound you’ll hear…”Guess This” is The Marica Frequency at their finest, and you can hear how truly little they need to be as mesmerizing as they genuinely are. At their most bare-bones, they’re still entirely exquisite to listen to – anything else we get, like the violins, simply becomes the cherry on top.
As I tend to do, I’m usually checking out all kinds of stuff throughout any given week in every different styles & sounds you can pretty much think of. Everyone out there is trying so damn hard all the time. As much as I, and I’m sure you as well, appreciate all that – it’s just another thing entirely to hear a band that seems like they’ve just naturally got everything goin’ on like The Marica Frequency does. Obviously the work has been put in to the nth degree – you don’t end up with gems like we’ve heard so far, or “Cardboard City” without ensuring every possible detail has been thoroughly mined and explored in-full – but again, the organic way you’ll hear them sound would nearly have you believing that this is just how The Marica Frequency rolls out of bed every morning, with a new song that grew naturally in their hearts overnight, ready to start a new day. The guitars & percussion of “Cardboard City” are fantastic, and the combination of vocals from the lead to the background on this tune, stand out for all the right reasons. While it’s certainly one of the more vividly emotional & thought-provoking tales in the lyricism, it’s equally as beautiful, melancholy, insightful, and engaging…you consider these words being sung, and you contemplate what’s being said as you listen – “Cardboard City” is the kind of song that has us all looking inward for a moment or two, and pinching ourselves to make sure that we’re as real as we think that we are. “When you look out around you…what do you see? Are the people just cut-outs of who you wanna be?” – it’s the kind of line that makes you really stop and think for a moment…and wonder. I tend to already think I live in the Matrix and I’m ready to give in to simulation theory…so for me, a concept like this isn’t really all that far removed from how I personally view the world we’re living in. For some of you out there, you might listen to “Cardboard City” and end up considering a few things you’ve never thought about before in terms of what’s real, what’s not, what matters…and what doesn’t.
Like…straight-up, you’re just not gonna find moments in time like you’ll hear on “I’ll Wait For You” from any other band out there in the world, that’s the reality here folks, and I almost don’t even know what else to tell ya. The artistic depth and dimension in a song like this will absolutely blow your mind – Marisa is a revelation on the mic in the way she’s chosen to sing this melody & its main hook…and I’m mighty inclined to put this song right up there with the most magical moments & milestone achievements I’ve heard in The Marica Frequency’s music. Considering 9.9 times outta 10 I basically love what this band creates…you know that’s extremely high praise – “I’ll Wait For You” is one of those undeniably breathtaking moments that only this band seems to be capable of creating, unique entirely to themselves in the most perfect of ways. “I’ll Wait For You” has somewhat of a split-personality when it comes to its structure in a significantly Part 1/Part 2 type-design…and after just how much I grew so instantly attached to the beginning half, I was nearly positive I’d naturally resist whatever twist and turn might come next – because I loved what I was hearing THAT much, I didn’t even want to let it go! But then, perhaps to the best of my own surprise – what followed in transition was entirely different, yet still a remarkable fit with a whole new side of the personality in their music on display. You go from these blissfully haunting & beautiful vocals at the start…isolated & intimate, like echoes of a voice drifting through time…almost patchy like the lines of communication are fraying, but the emotion is still completely intact and stronger than ever. As that breaks past the 2:30 mark, you drift away with a dose of spectacular saxophone, warm synth glow, and angelic hum of the vocals…it’s sincerely spellbinding by every conceivable definition, and another incredible achievement for a band that continually, has many.
The strength this band finds at their most delicate moments is astounding. Back-to-back, “I’ll Wait For You” and “The Promised Land” would easily be the best two songs you’ll find together on any record this year without question…like…I hate to say it folks, but it’s really not even a close contest. When they’re at their exquisite & immaculate best, The Marica Frequency is a whole level beyond the rest and a genuine glimpse into the future of music through sensory sound…and tracks like these two one after the other at the mid-point of Washed Away should go a long, long way to proving my point. They’ve got an authentic magic that the rest just don’t have, and when you hear it, you know – you can’t help but feel the music The Marica Frequency makes and how it seems to attach itself right to the core of your soul as you listen. Vocally, the combination of male/female voices here hits the mark like Robin Hood splitting the arrow…they give you that whole melodic harmony I love in bands like the Postal Service or in Faded Paper Figures, and deliver it to ya in one of the most mesmerizing moments in time to witness on The Marica Frequency’s new album. As incredible as the violin is, or the way the music seems to have these occasional squeals of indescribable organic awesomeness in it, or the smart use of ambient waves in the mix, the twinkle of piano, the allure of the sparkle in the dusty melody of the guitar…all of that stuff is amazing – and yet again, it’s quite likely the vocals that are gonna steal the show when it comes to “The Promised Land.” I’ve heard Chris on the lead many times…this is either a different singer, or he’s flexing a different gear in his vocals…I’m thinking it’s someone else making a guest appearance if I had to hazard a guess, but don’t quote me on that. In any event, when Marisa shows up to strengthen the vocals from the background, the impact of hearing her show up the first time will likely send shivers straight up & down your spine…she just adds this immaculately delicate magic every single time she shows up on the microphone, as I’ve maintained from day one & the very first time I heard her sing. All-in-all though, The Marica Frequency is leaving nothing out and no stone unturned from the music to the vocals on “The Promised Land” – it’s another exquisite gem to proudly add to their growing collection.
As the vibe brightened up a bit with the sound of “Heading Home,” providing a warmth you hear at like, the end of Saturday Night Live each week…I felt like I was somehow going to find myself at an end to the stellar run The Marica Frequency was on…for a brief moment anyhow. I was so very, very wrong…and I should know better than to not trust the instincts of this band. While it’s still fair to say that their more melancholy/beautiful tunes are more suited to my own personal taste – when I got the main vocal hooks on “Heading Home,” and heard “just let me save you” – it hit me like a full-on punch straight in the heartstrings, and brought a complete smile to my face at the very same time. Essentially they take this interesting spin on modern-day vibes at the start…like almost as if The Marica Frequency is about to take their first steps into Hip-Hop for a second there…and the switch into the hooks…is just something that you’re not likely to forget anytime soon. At just over the two-minute mark, “Heading Home” is one of the shortest cuts on Washed Away, but it’ll end up fast becoming one of its most addictive moments – this is the kind of hook that reaches us all, connects, and continues to reside on our playlists forever. It’s brilliantly quaint, friendly, inviting as it begins with its piano-led vibe – and by the time it’s all over, you’ll probably feel every bit like I did…which is essentially 100% fascinated by how powerful this moment became, and how extraordinarily subtle the switch was in turning this song from good to great.
The muted-banjo hooks that lead the way through “The Nameless” were spot-on and stellar to listen to – and I dig the soulful sound of Marisa & the artistic dimensions she brings to the vocals on this cut – it felt like we get to experience her with the full confidence of knowing it was up to her in the lead for this tune. When it comes to this particular tune, I think a couple things are true here – one being, that of course, I still love it – like I’ve been tellin’ ya, it’d be hard to knock this band off of the pedestal I’ve got’em on, I think The Marica Frequency is naturally incredible. Marisa becomes the song’s main advantage, and supplies the majority of the diversity and versatility in this cut – otherwise, you might find this particular idea musically remains a lot more static and stoic in its pattern than you tend to find from The Marica Frequency. Don’t get me wrong – you’ll hear the hook in the music, and you’ll know why it’s something you stick with – “The Nameless” is less than three minutes in total length, so they can somewhat get away without having to change things up too much in the instrumentation as long as Marisa held her end of the bargain and switched it up enough on the mic & in the vocal melody to give us that extra something we’d need as listeners, which I’d argue, she absolutely does. I do think that there’s a balance of strengths at work here that almost provides an evenness to this song that somehow seems to work against it in a way…like it’s missing that one major defining spark or monumental hook that pulls us in and engages the heart & mind like the rest of the material on Washed Away – but I did think that the stakes were raised enough in the finale to give it a brilliant finish on a song that started shining from the second it started, and you get some significant highlights from Marisa towards the end. Make no mistake y’all – on anyone else’s record “The Nameless” is an instant A-side – The Marica Frequency is only competing with themselves as far as I can tell…it’s only by comparison to the rest of this lineup of songs, that this one might have to fight for its share of the attention harder than the rest.
The title-track might be the song that ended up feeling like the oddest fit into the record overall though, which was a little unexpected. There’s a lot more of a Country-bend to “Washed Away” than you’ll find in the other songs in the set-list…which may, or may not work for some of course. A bit outside my own personal taste at the start in that regard, but that’s fine – it’s still as well-played as anything else you’d find from The Marica Frequency, and it’s clearly hitting the mark of their intentions. That being said, we’ve got another significantly Part 1/Part 2 type scenario here once again – and I’d be lying to ya by omission if I didn’t say that the second half of this cut is once more some of the best I’ve heard from the band when it comes to the music. The lyrics are desolate, the vocals despairing and yearning for some kind of tangible truth & comfort in this world…I felt like the answer to all of that is in this song as it shifts into its second minute…the saxophone is marvelous, the whole spirit of this song seems to respond, as if to say the truth that The Marica Frequency is seeking out is right there in the music, where it belongs. So in a sense, you need this first half to make the second work and have the impact it does – you need to feel the breaking down before you experience the building up…so in terms of songwriting & all that good stuff, heck ya, I’m fully onboard even if I’m not the world’s biggest Country-anything fan. By the time this cut hits its final third, that Country element has dissipated and all-out disappeared…and you’re left with this mesmerizing & sincerely special, comforting aura you just wanna wrap yourself in forever. From what starts and appears like a bitter reaction to the cold hearted nature of the world around us, The Marica Frequency reminds us “it’s a strange game, the one we play & one we must survive” – and reveals the beauty in response as it plays on…and the transition is one of the most inspired moments of 2021, bar none. They drift into jazzy, ethereal sound…it’s just completely & totally gorgeous, full-stop.
Ending on notes as stunning as this whole experience began with, “Never Alone” is the instrumental summation to this whole new installation in The Marica Frequency’s legacy. It’s amazing to me, just how remarkably comfortable their brand of melancholy can be…there’s such a tangible honest sound & perspective in their music and the way they play that you can’t help but marvel at it, and connect with it. The distance in the music overall on “Never Alone,” and it’s up-close warmth, all makes for exceptional contrast and a final enchanting moment in time that finishes the album on all the right notes – they didn’t need to set the world on fire with this last experience after all they’ve accomplished throughout this record so far, just navigate the plane towards a smooth landing, which is precisely what they did. “Never Alone” is a powerfully understated ending to another remarkable album by The Marica Frequency, no less captivating than the rest, even without the use of a single word. I am once again, taken aback by the beautiful & moving melodies this band is capable of – I am every single time I get to hear what they’re up to next, and I endlessly love that about The Marica Frequency above all other things. Each time out, they do something new, create something unforgettable, and find a powerfully unique way of their own to move & melt the hearts & minds out there through the music they make.
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