Sometimes, a guitar tone is a standout characteristic of a band. This happens to be the case with Totally Mild, which employs a jangly sound on its new album “Her,” released on Feb. 23. The band seems to do some generational jumping musically while still crafting a sound that’s hard to pin down.
“Sky” reveals some well-crafted musical details. This opening track features some bass guitar swagger and backing vocals that blend well together.
The following track “Pearl” evolves from a more synth-based sound to a nice incorporation of electric guitar that sears across the song. “Pearl” is filled with an almost mysterious atmosphere as the bandleader and lead vocalist Elizabeth Mitchell mentions an “electric feeling” and “your face shining through.” At times during this song, it can feel a little musically languid, but the album only picks up from there.
“Working Like a Crow” has an blissful, romantic feel to it at the outset. Mitchell sings “I can’t do it on my own,” and it seems reminiscent of the soul-influenced pop of the ‘60s. After some gritty guitar work from Zachary Schneider, the song transitions into a fusion of an ‘80s synth ballad and Best Coast. The musical repertoire that Totally Mild pulls from is diverse, and they employ variety on this album to compose something special.
This song transitions seamlessly into “From One Another,” a breezy and enjoyable number that feels akin to some of Real Estate’s music, a band that Totally Mild has toured with in the past. The track is musically tight, with the bass and electric trading off tastefully.
A real highlight on “Her” is “Lucky Stars.” A slow piano intro immediately transports the listener to somewhere vast and distant — it’s like a car ride in the desert in the middle of the night. Mitchell’s voice is evocative as she sings about stars shining like jewels. The negative space in this song is tangible.
The vocals on “Today Tonight” are especially emotive, and Totally Mild’s sound here is full. Overall, this track is wonky, but in a good way — all the different overlapping musical elements fuse together for an odd but enjoyable musical concoction.
“Underwater” reveals a keen sense of self-awareness in Mitchell’s songwriting. The song reveals a darker undercurrent lyrically and musically as she questions, “are you even trying?” “Underwater” is almost like a musical iceberg, with the brighter sounds immediately revealing themselves as the darker themes lurk just underneath. This sadder turn is a nice wrinkle in “Her.”
The closer, “Down Together,” expounds on the subject of a relationship found in “Underwater.” The track is hazy and melancholy with musically dense instrumentation. Totally Mild have no problems with filling out their songs as they explore many different musical territories on “Her.”
“Her” is an uncommon release from a band that gives its listeners much to chew on.