Music is a language. And just like in spoken language, certain types sounds have meanings. They aren’t definitions per se, but a reverbed guitar has meaning in that it references every reverbed guitar before it. Anyone trying to recall Surf Rock would be quoting the sound of people who themselves were quoting a sound. Each instrument, each note, and even basic chord structure and usage is a reference to a previous usage or a negation of that previous usage. Some artists entire feel is based on recreating that of earlier artists. Molly Burch’s Please Be Mine is an example of an album that attempts to seat a sound from an earlier time —in this case that 50s proto-rock of Mary Ford and Les Paul—for a new audience.
Burch isn’t exactly the first person to attempt this. This style of music has had a revival every few years since it was first declared over by the well-known British band, The Beatles. M. Ward—solo and with She & Him—and Beach House are among those who have championed the style. It is something like pulsating drums, wispy guitar, and ethereal vocals that seem almost like they’re melting over the song. This is the language that Burch is speaking in, and has become very fluent in.
Right off the bat, “Downhearted” quotes both the Phil Spector revival of fifties music (recall “Be My Baby”), but then quickly pulses into a the full back beat, not so much landing on the 2 and 4, but being more pronounced. And throughout the album, the drums rely on the toms just as much as the snare to create a wave effect the song rides along (here think “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly, or even “Wipeout,” although not as prominent). This is to the exception of the traditional Ballad, in which the Snare gets pounded with a crisp snap like title track “Please Be Mine.”
The instrumentation is allowed to be sparse because of this. For the most part it’s just the guitar and bass, with only keyboard here and there. Here, Dailey Toliver shows his ability to key in on a sound and quote it to perfection. It is part throwback to the original style, but nonetheless inspired by those who came before him like Ward and Alex Scally of Beach House. His achievements though come not with alternate tunings or slide guitar, but through a straight playing style that shines in songs like “Try” or “Wrong For You.”
All of this then to support Burch herself who has a style. One could call her vocal style “perfect for the music.” It is doubtful that she’ll ever release a pop album in the 2017 sense, but her voice makes its mark in the same way all the instrumentation does. She displays an impressive range: “Please Forgive Me” has her all over the place, effortlessly weaving in high notes at the chorus. It’s hard not to hear the ghost of Mary Ford all over the album, but in this case that’s not a bad thing at all.
What Please Be Mine is not is original. It doesn’t ever claims to be. There are really only so many sounds to be discovered within the constraints of Drums/Guitar/Vocals, so the ability to be original is diminishing. But it is authentic, and that is just as important. Think of how many great artists get their start trying to be someone else (Dylan, The Beatles). They learn to speak a language and start adding their own words. It is that burgeoning authenticity and ability to create exactly the sound you want that makes an artist so interesting. Burch has that in spades here, she is confident in the language she has chosen to speak. That can only mean good things for the future.
Article: Christopher Gilson