It takes a lot to have a defining sound nowadays, but Marian Hill manage to do that with what seems like the bare minimum. Marian Hill's unique sound carries them far in Unusual, the duo's sophomore record that rings with a certain darkness that no one else quite has.
The first thing you'll notice about Marian Hill's sound is how it says a lot by seemingly saying nothing. The music is very simple and relies on subtleties to really go different places. Opening track 'Subtle Things,' fittingly, shows that off perfectly. The dark swagger is assisted by nothing more than a punchy bass synth and vocalist Samantha Gongol's dejected timbre, various synth parts coming in to accentuate certain aspects. It's all in the details in Unusual. 'Differently' toys with glitchy vocal chops that contrast the smoothness of the rest of the song, before 'All Night Long' with Steve Davit comes in with a bit more drive.
While Unusual definitely says a lot with its voice, you can't help but feel like sometimes there could be a little more. It's songs like 'Sideways' that really drive the entire point through. In 'Sideways,' the piano and the lyrics blend simply but perfectly together to create that perfect sense of self-consciousness and vulnerability while attempting to be strong. It's not easy to achieve that right balance, and there aren't too many places where Marian Hill themselves really find it. In the haunting reverberations of 'Don't Do It' and the brooding swagger of 'Listening,' there's just something missing that would really bring it all together. Closing track 'Go Quietly' does end it on a wholesome note, with its pretty tone capturing a sense of longing as the album comes to a gentle close.
Marian Hill's unique sound carries them far in Unusual, highlighting their unique voice and the ability to really make something powerful. Marian Hill are like the minimalistic twenty one pilots, but with a particularly broken and vulnerable heart. And when they find the balance between those ideas and their sound, great things are possible.
Favorite Tracks: Sideways, Go Quietly
Least Favorite Track: Wish You Would
Rating: 77 / 100
Stream or buy Unusual on Apple Music, and follow our 2018 Playlist on Spotify: