ARTIST: Painted Mirror
RELEASE: Painted Mirror EP
RELEASE DATE: 3rd March 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Unsigned
Baltimore, MD-based Painted Mirror have just issued their self-released and self-titled 6-song debut, a statement made all the more impressive by the fact that its release signals the band’s first anniversary. Vocalist/keyboardist Sam Morgan, bassist Brian Fee, drummer John Theuerkauf, and guitarist Jake Smith formed the band in March of 2016, with a mission statement to create pop songs with an undercurrent and atmosphere of post punk and darkwave music. To that end, their sound is very much rooted in the darker alternative sounds of the mid- to late-80s, complete with keyboards playing a prominent role, as opposed to taking their inspiration from the more guitar-centric bands of the early 90s as many of their contemporaries do. The EP can be purchased via paintedmirror.bandcamp.com
The lead track on the EP, “Hearts”, begins with a shimmering, cascading guitar line and icy stabs of synth strings, supported by a strong bass tone and the steady percussion of drummer John Theuerkauf. The song immediately harkens back to those dark, 1980s dream pop ballads we slow-danced to while clinging to our cherished sweethearts in a dimly-lit middle school gym; wanting so much to be loved and understood, but fearing that this time will be exactly the same as all the others. Sam Morgan’s voice here bring to mind the emotive vocals of Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon, particularly in the impassioned pleas of the chorus. The complexities of relationships and the longing for connection are the focus here, and this song ends with the lyric “hearts aren’t always on display / we buried the truth in the dark”. Sometimes the dark is the only place left to leave our feelings when it all goes wrong. “Crystal Clear” unfolds layers of ’80s New Wave, its loping drum pattern and funky, throbbing bass line recalling the New Romantic-era, while Smith’s guitar shimmers in reverberating bell tones and Sam Morgan’s Gahan-esque vocals flourishes round things out nicely. “Inside Out” brings the band’s post-punk influences to the fore, featuring a very prominent bass line and harder-driving drum beat than the band had thus far utilized. Jake Smith’s guitar work creates a hazy-gazey atmosphere that snakes its way around Morgan’s lofty vocalizations, which again harken back to their roots in 1980s alternative music, when nearly everyone on both sides of the Atlantic seemed to have adopted an English accent.
The second half of the EP opens with “Rumors”, a song that dials back the forward-driving momentum of the previous track and creates a softer, sensual atmosphere thanks to some very emotive guitar dynamics from Smith. The tone of the song is the perfect support for Morgan’s vocals full of heartache and lyrics that explore the pain of a love that is falling apart. “The Fix” again brings Duran Duran to my mind, particularly their 1982 single “Save a Prayer”. The rhythm section lays down a dancefloor-friendly framework, while exotic keyboard flourishes and a straight-from-the-’80s guitar tone create an otherworldly quality that might be the high-point of the EP for this reviewer. The closing track, “Tell Me Maybe”, is pure dream pop slow burn. The longest track on the EP, it starts off languid and dreamy and in its final moments builds into a wall of sound powerhouse that any modern shoegaze band would be proud of, all feedback squall and driving, post-rock rhythms.
With its darkly personal exploration of love lost and love gone wrong, Painted Mirror’s self-titled EP is a very impressive debut from a band barely a year into their career. I look forward to hearing where the next year will take them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Marc Dooley is a Nashville-based writer, musician, visual artist, freelance video editor, indie comic book collector, film buff and lifelong music connoisseur with an ever-expanding music library of nearly 6,000 CDs, 250 vinyl records and over a TB worth of music in digital formats, in a multitude of genres ranging from alt- and classic country to underground hip-hop and electronica, shoegaze and classic indie/alternative rock, 1960’s and ’70s psychedelia & pop (domestic and international), post-rock and metal to classic jazz, blues, soul, funk, reggae and afrobeat.