Unique lyrics and genre blends in Mardi Gras’ Playground

Describing this album without going into specific detail on each individual track is definitely a challenge given the vast diversity of both the genres and level of quality for each of its tracks.  For starters, slapping a single genre label on the whole album is downright impossible—elements of folk rock, blues, country, and pop turn it into a vast mosaic of sounds that make it completely unique.  Claudia Loddo’s voice—husky, nasal, and just a little bit raspy at times—does its part in keeping the tracks interesting, for the most part.  The closest comparison that I would be capable of making for Loddo’s voice would be a cross between Pat Benatar and Laura Pergolizzi (a.k.a LP).  The instrumentation on the album is heavily varied: you get tracks with long piano sections, intricate guitar solos, and even the occasional organ or pop synthesizer.  Simone Sammarone on electric guitar deserves special mention: every track that features him ends up being pretty decent at worst and utterly mind-blowing at best.

BandThe first two tracks of the album are decent enough, though the seemingly limited vocal range in the songs doesn’t lead to a climax that leaves me particularly satisfied.  Track 3, “Road song (feat. Mundy)” completely puts me off, as the almost country sounding instrumentation doesn’t seem to lend itself well to Loddo’s huskier tone.  Despite my ambivalence toward the first couple of tracks, something magical happens once the 5th track finally comes around.  To be blunt, Track 5, “Painlover” is pure sex from start to finish.  The track combines blues elements with Claudia Loddo’s dark, rich tone in order to demonstrate Mardi Gras’ potential to create excellent content when they give their music some extra energy.  Add in an intricate, impressive guitar solo from Simone Sammarone and you’ve got yourself a stellar track that really stands out above the rest.

At this point in the album, I had great hopes for giving it a strong recommendation.  I instead was forced to endure the mundanity of Track 6, “Another Place,” and Track 7 “Before I Die”.  These two songs make it painfully apparent that Mardi Gras’ strong suit appears to reside in creating songs with a more complicated instrumentation, because while the aforementioned ballads contain interesting lyrics, they don’t have enough of a climax to really keep the audience fully engaged.  To me, the decent lyrics and simple melodies just aren’t enough to counterbalance the straightforward vocals and banal instrumentation.

So now for the million dollar question: if so many issues are prevalent in Playground, then why is it worth your time?  Simply put, Mardi Gras swings for the fences, and when they manage to get it right, you’re in for some great content that is both interesting and ambitious.  The massive variety of the track list means that you’re bound to come across one or two songs that you’ll fall in love with.  Track 10, “Are we ready for the sun” is a close second favourite of mine on the album, particularly for the thought that went to its lyrical content.  The track contains a clever global warming metaphor that doesn’t come off as too preachy, and it cleverly integrates quotes from a child at a UN environmental conference.  Strangely enough, the quotes don’t seem forced into the track at all—in fact, they feel as though they were meant to fit straight into the song from the moment they were created.  It’s refreshing to see artists putting strong messages in their songs while still maintaining a level of artistic integrity in producing lyrics that are both subtle and clever.

The tracks on Playground range from great (eg: Track 8, “Sara and the Three Roses”), to incredible, (eg: Track 5, “Painlover”) to relatively subpar, (eg: Track 3, “Road Song”)—in other words, the album definitely isn’t earning major points for consistency. That being said, the ambitious album has its fair share of excellent tracks that shouldn’t be missed by indie lovers who don’t mind a bit of inconsistency; definitely give it a listen if you’re looking for a unique lead vocal, and diverse instrumentation.

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