A disaster-plagued debut album from Pittsburg’s indie-pop finest has thankfully managed to find its way into our hands despite equipment blowouts, master tape disintegration and other such obstacles. The result of this band’s triumph over adversity is a neat collection of sweet and savory pop tidbits with a dark undercurrent swirling just below the surface.

You see, Mariage Blanc are one of those bands whose lyric sheet deems a good, dedicated read. The jangle-pop essence of the music gives the deception of their being a good-natured, well-adjusted bunch of lads, but a careful prodding reveals a seamy underside. The confessions of a man who is well aware of his issues and wise enough to analyze them, yet caught in a trap of being unable to escape them, play out here to a playful chord progression. It’s an interesting paradox that seems to be the Mariage Blanc formula.

The album starts out strong with “Whatever You Say I Am,” a jangly ’60s-flavored gem that is deceptively innocent with a jaded core. “Trial and Error” provides immediate contrast with its low-key, melancholy opening that builds into a syncopated finale softened slightly by the addition of a lovely trumpet solo that carries the song to its abrupt end. “Move On” is an oddly danceable song about self-abuse and self-sabotage. “Trances” is wistful, with a perfect interplay of alternately ringing and punctuated guitars against a nostalgic Hammond organ.

“Poor Portraits” is slightly weaker than the other offerings here but with a catchy hook that redeems itself quite nicely. “Rag to a Bull” swings cheerfully in spite of itself, “With Friends Like These” is classic rock with some nonetheless surprising and clever changes scattered throughout. “From Bangs to Wimpers” again calls to mind ’60s pop stars à la the Zombies, miming their hits on a black and white TV screen. “Set to Repeat” is lovely, with a brilliant chorus with sweet vocal harmonies set against a meandering piano line. “Origami” closes out the album on a (musically) upbeat note that betrays the pensive and intelligent lyrics. Who says you can’t have both anyway?

Fans of Voxtrot, Belle & Sebastian and Morning Benders, make haste and pick this one up. This is the next big thing and you can brag that you had their album when they were unsigned.

Grade: B+



Mariage Blanc is currently available.