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Album Review: Mayberry’s “Beautiful Mess”

Beautiful Mess EP Art

When speaking of their upcoming EP, Mayberry frontman Esteban Rodriguez had one goal in mind: “Beautiful Mess is a project I’m extremely excited about. [With] songs about personal experiences, this EP is influenced by many styles and sounds that I hope will appeal to old and new listeners.”

This goal is evident throughout, Beautiful Mess, Mayberry’s six song EP set to be released on July 22. Working with John Keefe and Morgan Dorr from Boys Like Girls, the band has continued to build on the groundwork laid in their 2014 three-song EP, Just A Dream. The addition of Keefe and Dorr as producers and writers is a perfect fit for the band, a group that could easily appeal to a wide range of people, from fans of Maroon 5 to the more rock-oriented side of the pop world filled with bands like Fall Out Boy.

The general feel of Beautiful Mess will not surprise pop fans. Like any good pop outing, Mayberry has offered up a series of short catchy tunes that could easily become earworms. What could come as a surprise, though, is the variety that is packed in the six short tracks. Opening track “Wildfire” clocks in over 3 and a half minutes, so what the listener is left with is a rapid-fire barrage of stylistic changes that make for an intriguing collection.

Starting off with a pulsing beat in “Wildfire” and the familiar topic of a man lost in a relationship, the band fills the song with dense layers. These layers are constructed in a way that manages to build the chorus up without distracting from the hook of the song that could easily be stuck in a person’s head for days.

“On Top of the World” finds the band at their most rocking. The song would be a strong fit at any sporting event, complete with a refrain of “I’m on top of the world, I’m never coming back down” and gang vocals and a grimy sounding beat that feels custom-made for energizing groups of people. This stands in stark contrast to “Say What You Want From Me,” a song full of delicate synth parts and simple piano that finds Rodriguez feeling less cocky and more heartbroken.

Switching things up for the fourth track, “Don’t Be Shy,” Mayberry shifts into one of their most organic sounding songs, one less focused on effects and programming and more on instrumentation. The song plays like a Maroon 5 b-side, catching the band’s catchy and danceable feel more than any other track. While the song features a guitar solo so simple it almost seems meaningless, the focus is on a chorus that repeats so many times that there is no way your mind will let you forget about it.

Wrapping up Beautiful Mess, the band chooses two very different looks. “Find My Way” sounds like a song that would be more comfortable in a Lumineers set than the band’s pop contemporaries. This is followed up by what feels like the least adventurous song of the EP, “Coming Home To You.” After the danceable rhythms throughout the collection culminate in “Find My Way,” fans are left with a completely stripped back acoustic pop love song. While it is a sweet song that is sure to find an audience amongst the most sentimental of listeners, the song almost feels like a letdown after the wide variety featured before the track.

Despite any missteps, Mayberry’s Beautiful Mess is far from what the title may imply. The EP showcases a band with a wide variety of influences that is not afraid to tap into those in their search for the perfect pop song. Rodriguez’s goal is certainly accomplished on Beautiful Mess and it leaves the listener wondering where the band will go from here.

Whatever direction they choose, it will no doubt be very catchy.

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Written by Nathan Badley

When Nathan is not writing about music, he might be writing material for his often neglected blog at nathanbadley.com. Or he might be writing something else. Or podcasting. Or playing music. Most likely he is just watching TV thinking about how he should be doing those things. You can tweet him @badlandsbadley and congratulate him on his mad 3rd person writing skills.

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