Every so often a band will come along who'll change up things and mix styles in an attempt to get a listener's attention. The results are usually not great. Marrow are not one of those bands. Marrow have managed to really stun this listener with their debut album, The Gold Standard, out Friday on the band's own Foxhall Records.
Marrow blend elements of multiple genres -- indie, jazz, even prog rock -- in a seemingly effortless fashion and the results are glorious. Rarely does an album provide as much pure pleasure as does The Gold Standard. When was the last time a record surprised you?
For example, "Darling Divine" unfurls on the back of a jazzy piano line while singer Macie Stewart does her best Rickie Lee Jones. And then, the big chorus kicks in and the song takes on another vibe altogether. It's music that is nearly impossible to describe in words but music that is easy to love.
Earlier single "Paulson" is here and it sits surprisingly well next to more risky ventures like "Ocean of Glory" which bridges the sort of folk rock that the Dead would have dabbled in a few decades ago with a decidedly more prog rock ending section. This is bold, adventurous music and Marrow are to be applauded for not only making it but for even attempting it.
"Cities" is simple and affecting while "Corsicana" succeeds thanks to Liam Kazar's soulful vocals. The cut bears favorable comparisons to both Rufus Wainwright and Tom Waits and yet it remains, like the rest of the songs on this record, something wholly of its own.
Album closer "Quarter to Three" closes with Macie doing that Rickie Lee Jones thing again only to have the band rave up behind her. Imagine Carly Simon in her classic era fronting an indie band and you'd have some idea of what this sounds like.
Marrow are doing something remarkable on The Gold Standard. These are songs full of bold stylistic moves and wild leaps between genres. Still, Marrow pull everything off. There is not one misstep here, nor one unsure moment. Marrow confidently and assuredly combine expert musicianship with a sense of fun. It is a very rare thing indeed for a band to be able to do this so well. And, frankly, I can't remember the last time I was so pleasantly surprised by a band as I was when I first listened to Marrow.
I realize that when put in writing the risk-taking of the 11 cuts on The Gold Stardard is hard to describe. It doesn't sound like this music would work when you write it all out but it does work. Beautifully. Play what you can online and then go get this album as soon as you can.