Marley Carroll – Sings Album Review

Amongst his peers and in certain artistic circles, Asheville NC-based producer Marley Carroll is known as “the producer’s producer” — but he’s quickly been changing the narrative. His forthcoming album Sings is set for release today on his own Melanaster Records imprint and sees him mastering a number of stylistic comfort zones. From UK-flavored instrumental productions, Caribou-inspired micro-house, to vocals utlised in a multitude of ways, Sings is the calling card of a producer coming into his own.

Sonically, Sings is as diverse as its creator, exploring indie house, gut-punching shoegaze and the darker UK-flavoured instrumental work Carroll has continued to explore. Structurally, the album has two sides, one light, one dark and the brief but intriguing interlude, 1985, provides the bridge between the two. As the title indicates, Carroll’s distinctive double-tracked vocals serve as the common thread, tying these disparate styles together in one unbroken narrative arc. It is a honest artifact, something meant for listeners who are weary of the refractive echo chamber of the current music scene at large. With Sings, Carroll shifts his focus ever so slightly from that of a fiercely independent loner to one with broader appeal. Sings sees Carroll shift stylistically throughout the album which features female fronted vocal tracks, some head-nodders and some Dan Snaith-esque upbeat type cuts. It’s an album full of wooden percussion, deep basses and lush shakers.

The Hunter, the album’s first single and opener, is a prismatic cut featuring a subtle bed of Carroll’s vocals behind the track’s upbeat rhythm. In a lot of ways The Hunter only just scratches the surface of the different genres and mixing Carroll explores throughout the album.

The second track, Speed Reader, instantly characterises what Carroll is capable of. The guitar riff carries funk influences while the song’s simple vocals enhance the melody that is prominent in this track. It’s an easily accessible song that blends electronica with funk, indie and pop successfully. Whereas The Hunter’s focus was on synthesisers and electronic drum beats to create its technical sound, Speed Reader shows that Carroll isn’t just about the electronics. He has tried to create a much more real sound in Speed Reader while never losing the ability to bring forward those odd synthesiser sounds that add atmosphere to his music.

Lossless is CocoRosie-esque in terms of the vocals and rhythmic beats. The female vocals are angelic and calming especially as they are accompanied by that gentle and soft clapping percussion beat. Lossless is a little Bjork in places. It’s a song that allows you to dream of far away and mystical places. It’s simple and stripped back – it’s perfection.

Marley Carroll

Marley Carroll

Cedars sees the album return back to its heavy electronica influence but this isn’t a bad thing. This song is a really relaxing number with swooning melodies. It places you into a transcendent state. It’s the sort of song that you’d expect to hear in an upper class bar in London. Cedars has just the right amount of electronica with the drum beat and synthesisers but it also has just the right amount of lounge to take that club edge off it.

Stereogum recently premiered the second single from the album First Thought, Last Thought, which you can check out here. They describe it as a “…track that changes itself up multiple times throughout its four minutes, shifting from a ghostly intro to its jittery first section before moving into an even better second half decorated with stretched-out vocals, loose percussion, and a synth line that shines like sunlight through trees.” And they are spot on.

The second half of Sings introduces a particularly sad yet mature side to Carroll. Prepared Piano is a good example of this – it’s a composition that will bring tears to your eyes. With huge classical influences, this piano composition is a wonderfully emotional and mesmerising piece. The delicate notes and the softness heard when they are played all make this piece of music solemn yet forgiving and heart-opening. It’s played in such a way that you feel it’s a piece of music that is telling a story. It’s beautiful.

The last track Look Out further explores this emotional side to Carroll’s music as it starts with one piano chord, a few synthesised sounds and the lyrics, “We used to go to movies/We used to stay out late/Now it’s taking all my effort/Just to stay awake/Honey don’t you worry/While I’m still around/I won’t leave you stranded/My hands are stuck in the ground…” Look Out is a carefully crafted song that starts and ends bare after the colourful expression half way through the song.

Sings is out today via Melanaster Records.

After recent national tours with Shigeto and Dabrye and festival dates at Decibel, Coachella and Moogfest, Carroll has announced a handful of upcoming North Caroline dates in December including the Album Release show on December 13 at the Mill Room in Asheville.

4 Dec – The Pour House, Raleigh NC
13 Dec  – The Mill Room, Asheville NC

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