MisterWives must be feeling pretty happy with themselves, their new EP, Reflections, garnering them positive reviews in such publications as Billboard, Interview, Buzzworthy, NYLON and TeenVogue. Then again, the band seemed charmed long before the reviews came in. In February of 2013 the group — Mandy Lee (Vocals), Etienne Bowler (Drums), Will Hehir (Bass) — played their very first show together and after it was over they were immediately signed by Photo Finish! Suffice to say you don’t hear very many stories about bands getting signed right after playing shows these days. And you sure as hell don’t hear about bands getting signed after their very *first* show. (I don’t think that’s happened since the majors were signing every hair band on Sunset Strip back in the mid ’80’s!) I don’t know who told Island to go to their show, but whoever it is, I hope the band is sending them a box of expensive chocolates every week to thank them.
Since being signed to Photo Finish, the band has released their Reflections EP and they have been hitting the road with Mowgli’s, generating more and more buzz everywhere they play. And it’s easy to understand why from the very first time you hear their EP. It’s bursting with contagious energy and if they’re that lively on tape then they must kick some major ass live, sans doute. But, more than kicking ass, the thing about MisterWives is that they’re clearly very passionate about music. Their enthusiasm shines right through all six of the songs on the EP, glowing like a bright neon sign in a dark club. Just… beautiful.
“Twisted Tongue” kicks off the EP sounding like a turbo-charged, folk pop version of Blondie with a grandiose arrangement featuring groovy guitars, disco-primed bass, and rollicking drums that seem to split the difference between The Lumineers and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. But the shimmering horns get most of the credit for putting the swing in the band’s shuffle, making them sound larger than life. Last but certainly not least, Mandy deserves a big round of applause for her high-octane vocals and biting lyrics. Her inflection when she sings “you’re an ass…hole” is perfect! Think of her as a highly caffeinated Jenny Lewis.
“Reflections” follows and you just might have downloaded it already because it was the first iTunes single of the week for 2014 with over 350,000 people downloading it. Just another way of increasing their buzz! Here, Mandy’s vocals soar to great heights as she demonstrates her power and her precious falsetto. It’s kind of like listening to Gwen Stefani sing Scissor Sisters, although this one is more indie rock than folk pop, but you can’t expect a band this good to be held down by genre distinctions. They just write the songs they want to be write and put them out there. And the fans seem to be digging the fact that their tunes don’t all sound the same.
The ballad here is called “Coffins.” “I gave my hand for you to hold / I gave my love that you went and sold,” begins the lyrics, which Mandy sings with the perfect amount of melancholy in her voice, proving she can sing anything under the sun. Listening to this one on repeat, I keep thinking of First Aid Kit. “Coffins” is like a slightly less folk version of First Aid Kit with a mild dose of Mumford stomp thrown in for good measure.
The best song comes later on the EP. It’s the second to last track and it’s a cheerful number called “Imagination Infatuation.” If they don’t release this bright, shining diamond as a single then it will be a very big missed opportunity because it’s brilliant and I can easily see it becoming one of summer’s biggest hits. It just has that carefree, whimsical air about it. And whimsical just might be the best word to describe the band with, being that you never know where their uppity songs are going to go, where their music might take you. It all feels very spontaneous. To that end, I imagine they perform all of their live shows as though they were playing live for the very first time, which is saying something because most bands are just going through the motions after the first couple of weeks on the road. Bottom line? I don’t think there will be a better EP released this year.