Truly great debut albums from important young artists are relatively rare. The Doors made one. Bob Dylan didnt. And when a debut is independently released, cheap production values can make things worse. Often, songs flow unevenly together, track sequencing is poor and the record runs needlessly long even when the artist has great material. ("Oh the record is good, but you really have to see em live.") But uniquely talented Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Eleni Mandell has cleared this freshman hurdle with style and grace. Her debut album, Wishbone which Mandell released herself on her own Mr. Charles label is a dark, stylistic jaw-dropper, with songcraft that shows a maturity belying Mandells relative inexperience and youth. Check out these lyrics from Mandells passionate ode to infidelity, "Meant to Be in Love": "I know my husband cares for me/I know my darling does/But when I bear his son/Hell look like you because/We were meant to be in love." Clearly, Mandell is no amateur. However, its in the production and presentation creatively channeled by producers Brian Kehew (Moog Cookbook) and Jon Brion (Rufus Wainwright) where this stuff really begins to reach high altitude. Walkie-talkies growl, Chamberlain and Optigan keyboards spit, and Mandell purrs like a damaged but proud torch singer in an elegant but torn dress. And despite the albums stylistic reach sparse urban fado flows into punky stomp and back again theres an overall consistency of tone that lifts Wishbone up and holds it all together. One can only assume that a record like this is not a fluke; well be hearing more of Eleni Mandell. An immensely impressive debut.
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