Thu, Apr 17, 2014 - Page 11 News List

Classical CD reviews

Riverside, by Riverside; Make My Head Sing ..., by Jessica Lea Mayfield.

By Nate Chinen and Jon Pareles  /  NY Times News Service

Mayfield played guitars and produced the album with her bassist and husband, Jesse Newport, backed by a drummer, Matt Martin. With Mayfield often playing baritone guitar, lowering the pitch of the central guitar chords, they put a feedback-edged grunge power trio at the core of the songs: the sound of trouble, obsession, foreboding, decadence. But Mayfield doesn’t rasp like a flannel-shirted rocker; her voice stays clear and oddly calm as she sings lines like, “When it’s just us two in the dark/You’ve got a stranglehold on my heart.”

As a whole, the album is monochromatic, too single-minded about Mayfield’s new sound — and, at times, a little too determined to reverse-engineer Nirvana’s flanged guitar effects. And her laconic new lyrics don’t always offer the subtleties and paradoxes of her earlier songs.

But individual tracks are telling. Among them are I Wanna Love You, which is more about stalking than romance; Do I Have the Time, which charges into a polymorphous wilderness of desire and infidelity; Party Drugs, a hollow-eyed ballad set to a lone guitar in which the singer reassures someone, “I won’t die in this hotel room”; and Anything You Want, with a heaving riff and a girlish-voiced, matter-of-factly foreboding refrain: “You get away with anything you want.”

Make My Head Sing ... probably doesn’t stake a permanent new direction for Mayfield. It signals, instead, that from now on she’ll do whatever she wants.

— By Jon Pareles, NY Times News Service

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