Mackenzie Shivers – Rejection Letter
While the first cut (“Afraid”) doesn’t exactly ignite like an accelerant Mackenzie Shivers does provide dynamics in her arrangement with orchestrations, & fine vocals. But cut 2 (“The Roses”) has more of an attractive flavor vocally, melodically & the musicianship is heavy like sweet cream. Followed by a rockier “Martha’s Vineyard,” that, while not any different from other folk-rockers, has a pleasant enough squeeze to it. Fortunately, Ms. Shivers has a good diversified vocal style – she doesn’t sound like anyone & her band is tight as the skin on an apple.
These are the opening songs of Ms. Shivers’ 10-track Rejection Letter (Drops April 2/Eilean Donan Records). Produced by Kevin Salem & Mackenzie with string arrangements by Oliver Kraus (cello/viola/violin). The cuts were recorded in Woodstock, NY, & some other locations.
“Mess,” is another attractive catchy soundscape but I would’ve thought a musician like Mackenzie could’ve come up with a better song title. Musicians on this album are Ms. Shivers (vocals/piano/keyboards/acoustic guitar), Yuka Tadano (electric, upright & synth bass), Cody Rahn (drums), Kevin Salem (electric guitars/pump organ/keyboards/magical sounds), & Kyra Sims (French horn).
“100 Miles,” on the surface is a good compelling song with solid piano, orchestration & background vocals but it’s occasionally hampered by cliche lyrics. Mackenzie Shivers is in fine voice but can’t save lyrics like: “I’ve seen the writing on the wall.” (how many times have we heard that line)? It sounds like Ms. Shivers tried to write with some descriptive phrases (better than most) but fell victim to some of the standard descriptive cliches as well. The song itself is actually well-arranged & performed. The cliches can be forgiven.
The producer obviously wanted Mackenzie’s voice to have a deep presence because she’s recorded way upfront & sounds quite intimate if you’re wearing headphones. Is this bad? No not at all, especially when the orchestra sounds start to kick in, she manages to maintain her upfront position (“Butterscotch”). This is quite likable. But I only wish the “presence” approach wasn’t consistent with every song. Mackenzie is blessed with good arrangements for her showcase. Each song has its own sparkle – some more than others.
Ms. Shivers needs to do better with her song titles. One-word song titles don’t show much ingenuity though the songs themselves have ingenuity. The song titles are just as important as the song itself – that’s the first thing that comes in contact with a listener’s eye.
The closing cut is the title track & it’s exceptional with its lullaby-like piano run & her compelling whispered like-vocal, breathy yet powerful. Strong lyrics. Even the magical sounds by Mr. Salem made this intense & lovely.
The CD is available at http://mackenzieshivers.com/