Manifestra

Erin McKeown

TVP Records, 2013

http://www.erinmckeown.com

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/19/2013

Though Erin McKeown might be mostly known as a folk-rock songwriter, she's dabbled in swing, pop, indie rock and electronic sounds across her seven albums. Taking the DIY approach to her music since way back in the late '90s, she founded her own label where most of her albums have been released. McKeown's latest effort, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Manifestra, is a smart pop record at its core, though it contains a lot of varied sounds with much detail to percussion.

This is a more political-oriented album than her prior work. “The Politician” starts things off with thick guitars and expansive horns in a blues rock fashion. From there, things move into delicate balladry with the heart-wrenching and eloquent “Proof.” “In God We Trust” picks the pace up again and takes nods at McKeown's earlier rock albums with emphasis on the keys as well. At this point in the album, we've heard very little that sounds like the folk-singer she's known as, though by “Histories” we hear a semblance of that in her soulful singing and aching strings that launch the song.

The activist in McKeown is evident all over this listen as she communicates through her songs. “The Jailer” touches on capital punishment and “Baghdad To The Bayou” brings current topics like war and the corruption of oil companies into view. However, there's a great back to basics love song here, “Instant Classic,” a duet with Ryan Montbleau that is nothing short of glorious.

This release is equal parts serious and playful (coming late in the disc, “That's Just What Happened” could be a Broadway show tune). While McKeown has plenty of indie credibility, the universal beauty and sophisticated pop ideas here certainly have mainstream appeal. An extremely versatile musician and sharp lyricist, McKeown has a penchant for strong melodies and unique rhythms, both of which are used here in spades. And if you're more interested in her stripped-down folk songs, you're in luck because Manifestra comes with a bonus CD that is the entire album done acoustic.

Rating: B+

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