|Eleni Mandell — Let’s Fly a Kite (2014)|
Eleni Mandell — Let’s Fly a Kite
••• While on a tour with Nick Lowe, Eleni became fast friends with Nick's producer Neil Brockbank and agreed to make this album together. Mandell went to London and cut it with Brockbank and members of Lowe's band, including Geraint Watkins (keyboards), Matt Radford (bass), Robert Trehern (drums), Martin Winning (wind instruments) plus Greg Townson of Los Straitjackets on guitar. Says Lowe: “She stole my band and my sound, but I'd still have her 'round for tea.”
Born: October 1969 in Los Angeles
Location: Los Angeles, California
Album release: January 28, 2014
Record Label: Yep Roc Records
01 Put My Baby to Bed 3:09
02 Wedding Ring 2:51
03 Little Joy 3:27
04 Love Never Acted 3:16
05 The Man Who’s Always Lost 2:41
06 I Like You 3:12
07 Anyone Like You 3:48
08 Maybe Yes 2:40
09 Something to Think About 4:33
10 Midnight Hauler 2:57
11 Cool Water 2:53
12 Like Dreamers Do 2:22
℗ 2014 Yep Roc Records
Neil Brockbank Engineer, Producer, Vibraphone
Laura Heffington Photography
Matt Holland Arranger, Flugelhorn, Trumpet
Eric Ernest Johnson Paintings
Bob Loveday Recorder, Violin
Eleni Mandell Composer
Tucker Nelson Engineer, Vibraphone
Angie Pollock Vocals (Background)
Matt Radford Bass
Kate St. John Accordion, Arranger
Greg Townson Guitar
Robert Trehern Drums, Percussion, Producer
Michael Triplett Design
Geraint Watkins Keyboards
Martin Winning Wind
Tim Young Mastering
♠ 2014 release, the ninth album from the L. A. songstress. Featuring 12 new songs, the album was recorded at Goldtop Studios in London and produced by Neil Brockbank, who also produces for Eleni's fellow label mate, Nick Lowe, and Robert Trehern, who plays in Nick's band. Eleni has created an impressive body of work over the past decade and has received praise from the likes of Rolling Stone, American Songwriter and the Los Angeles Times. Since the release of her previous album, I Can See the Future, Eleni has toured with Nick Lowe, contributed a track to the Sweet Relief III: Pennies from Heaven compilation and was honored with a tribute concert this fall presented by KCRW.
Review by Timothy Monger | Score: ****
♠ Something magical can happen when an artist manages to accurately capture a very defining time or era in their life. In 2010, L.A. native Eleni Mandell gave birth to twins by means of an anonymous sperm donor, dramatically changing the way she managed her career. Over the course of her previous eight albums, Mandell's songs have examined life, love, and human nature from a multitude of angles, but rarely has she sounded as focused as she is on Let's Fly a Kite. Balancing the priorities of being a single mother and professional musician, these 12 songs find her re–examining the richness of her new life to find a calm satisfaction. Following a 2012 tour with Nick Lowe, Mandell befriended both Lowe's backing band and his longtime producer Neil Brockbank. When they decided to make an album together, there was a very short window for it to happen causing her to write a specific set of new songs for the band rather than slowly piece her material together over time. The result is a unique and charming snapshot of Mandell's changing life paired with a group of musicians who specialize in live, single–take performances. Brockbank's breezy arrangements are a perfect companion for Mandell's rich, melodious voice and there is a playful immediacy throughout the record. Songs like the jazzy "Put My Baby to Bed" and "Maybe Yes" are sharply written and full of clever turns of phrase exploring the singer's world of motherhood and romance. There are austere country-flavored pop songs like the wonderful "Little Joy" and "Cool Water," full of infectious melody and a gentle joie de vivre. There is an overall sense of it being the right album at the right time for Mandell which is something that doesn't happen very often in an artist's career.
ERIC J. LAWRENCE | MON JAN 27, 2014
♠ We here at KCRW have been big fans of local singer/songwriter Eleni Mandell for quite some time now — since her 1998 debut, Wishbone, in fact. And whether it is with her solo work, her band the Grabs, or with her team–up with fellow local singer/songwriters the Living Sisters, Mandell always impresses, and that mark of quality has led her to work with a number of noteworthy fans, including Chuck E. Weiss, Jon Brion, Wilco’s Nels Cline, members of legendary rockers X and many others. ♠ But it seems clear her latest, Let’s Fly a Kite, is her most personal set of songs to date.
♠ Inspired by her three–year–old twins, she celebrates motherhood in an affectionate, charming way, letting her smart, subtle pop tunes replace the kind of fawning baby snapshot overload most parents can’t seem to shake. This time around aided by her Yep Roc labelmate Nick Lowe with the loan of his crack band, Mandell frames her sonic storytelling in such a way that it reads both as clever, old–timey love songs and as elegant lullabies to her young charges, such as on tracks like “Put My Baby to Bed,” “I Like You,” and “Little Joy.” Jaunty, two–step rhythms keep things lively (the Nick Lowe influence is quite apparent), while Mandell’s trademark wry perspective remains intact. All in all, Let’s Fly a Kite is a clarion call for us all to take inspiration from the wonders of childhood and a darn fine album to boot.
♠ Let’s Fly a Kite is available in stores now. On the record, Eleni explores the joys and trials of being a mother to young twins with the help of Nick Lowe’s crack backing band and producer Neil Brockbank. This will be her second album released on Yep Roc, the album sees a standard–bearer of the L.A. singer–songwriter scene offer a window into her new parental role through characteristically wry lyrics, noirish vocals and sunny and orchestral–pop arrangements.
♠ If you need to sample the album, head over to the folks at KCRW. They’ve been fans of Eleni Mandell since here 1998 debut Wishbone and are featuring an exclusive stream of the radio show HERE: http://www.kcrw.com/music/programs/ap/ap140127eleni_mandell_lets_f.
Written by Hal Horowitz | January 30th, 2014 at 6:13 pm | Score: 4/5 stars
♠ “I just wasn’t made for these times,” famously sang Brian Wilson, but those words also perfectly apply to singer/songwriter Eleni Mandell. Her albums, from as far back as 1999’s debut, have bathed in a sumptuous not so subtle undercurrent of an earlier era, often decades ago, where her mellifluous chanteuse voice and often torchy approach to singing were the norm not the exception.
♠ For Let’s Fly a Kite, her ninth effort, a fortuitous meeting with Nick Lowe’s band and producer (Neil Brockbank) connected her already retro vibe with a group who, through Lowe’s similar approach, is fully comfortable in those surroundings. That makes these dozen songs feel refreshingly out of step with anything contemporary. In fact, if you heard many of them without knowing they were recently recorded, it’s likely you would think you stumbled upon a terrific and undiscovered 60s folk/pop oddity. Songs such as the laid back country with mariachi horns of “The Man Who’s Always Lost” and the sweet Burt Bacharach inspired “Little Joy” seem to emerge from an earlier, more innocent age where the craft of songwriting was left to professionals in the Brill Building. The bittersweet waltz time “Anyone Like You” adds a countrypolitan element, complete with roller rink organ, that has characteristically been linked to Mandell’s unique sound. She swings back to hot jazz on “Like Dreamers Do,” a track that wouldn’t seem out of place on an old Peggy Lee album.
♠ Jazzy clarinet, stand–up bass, tympani and plucked strings also make brief but significant appearances, set the mood and move on as in the peppy opening “Put My Baby to Bed,” a honeyed ode to the joys of Mandell’s recent motherhood. Even when the instrumentation is stripped down to acoustic guitar on “I Like You,” the moon–June-swoon lyrics and her noir voice make it seem like a lost 50s ballad from the great American songbook. When all the pieces connect as in the mid–tempo pop of “Maybe Yes,” it’s clear that Mandell isn’t made for these times, yet has found the right team to realize the music in her head. It’s an immaculately produced gem and there’s nothing currently out there like it. (Hal Horowitz, http://www.americansongwriter.com/)
♠♠ “I didn’t fly a kite for thirty years,” says Eleni Mandell. “Then I had kids and all of the sudden we were flying kites all the time. It’s such a simple, fun thing to do, but along the way you forget.” Mandell’s utterly charming new album, ‘Let’s Fly A Kite,’ is about remembering those simple joys. Recorded over three weeks in London with legendary UK songwriter Nick Lowe’s band, the album required a unique approach and captures a very distinct moment in Mandell’s life.
♠♠ “This record is really different because [Nick Lowe producer] Neil Brockbank and I decided we wanted to work together,” explains Mandell, who earned the admiration of Lowe on tour. “There was a small window when that could happen, so I had to write specifically for this record. Instead of collecting songs over a few years that were written more therapeutically, I was giving myself assignments, which was actually freeing because I was writing from outside of myself more.”
♠♠ That Mandell’s focus has shifted outside herself is no coincidence. In 2010, the acclaimed LA songwriter — who’s earned raves from The New Yorker and LA Times to SPIN and the Associated Press for an eclectic catalog that evokes everything from Tom Waits and X to Cat Power and Patsy Cline — gave birth to twins via an anonymous sperm donor. Three years later, they accompany her nearly everywhere on the road (a prospect she says is actually less stressful than traveling with a band), and have radically transformed every aspect of her life.
♠♠ “I used to just wake up in the morning sit in the front window with my guitar and wait for inspiration to hit,” says Mandell. “Now everything is different, and I don’t have that luxury anymore. My life is so much about my kids and keeping them happy and fed and getting enough sleep and dressed, and I really enjoy that. I like the restrictions. It makes sitting down to write a more special, focused act.”
♠♠ The effect was indeed special on her critically lauded 2012 release, ‘I Can See The Future,’ an album which prompted Paste to call her “a songwriter of the highest ilk” and American Songwriter to hail her work as “timeless.” But at the time, Mandell was still reflecting on, as she puts it, “the difficulties and the sadness of trying to have a family and it not happening the way I had imagined.” By contrast, ‘Let’s Fly A Kite’ basks in the richness and contentment of single motherhood, and finds Mandell writing with a wit and joie de vivre that take center stage from the very first lines of album opener “Put My Baby To Bed,” a double entendre of parental doting and romantic desire that showcases her lyrical prowess at its finest.
♠♠ “Our society is so geared towards sex and romance, but you don’t just have one kind of relationship in life,” she says. “My children definitely inspired me, but there’s another song on the record that’s for my grandmother, for instance, and it’s been really interesting for me to explore writing about different kinds of love.”
♠♠ Mandell hasn’t forsaken the “sweetly dark” (NPR) melancholy of her earlier work, though. “Wedding Ring” is a breezy ode to a particularly elusive accessory, while “Love Never Acted” is a wistful bit of longing for a relationship that could–have–been, and “Something To Think About” blends the political and the personal into an anxious blend of worries. But without a doubt, the album’s heart and soul are Mandell’s son and daughter. From the soulful “Little Joy” to the jazz–inflected “Like Dreamers Do,” they prove a fountain of inspiration and serve as a constant reminder that life often has something far more interesting in store for us than we could ever plan.
♠♠ “I went through hell to have these kids,” Mandell reflects when discussing the touching “Cool Water.” “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But then I realize that every failed relationship, every disappointment, every failed IVF led me to exactly where I’m supposed to be, with my two amazing, beautiful children.”
♠♠ Some things never change, and just like in years past, Mandell will pack up and hit the road to tour the US and Europe in support of the album, but these days she has a couple extra passengers. “We stop at parks and playgrounds and museums and swimming pools,” she says of touring with the twins. “It’s such a cool way to discover the United States and see different neighborhoods. We even started going to presidential libraries and museums. It’s made touring more like a family vacation and less about just getting to the next city and playing the show.”
♠♠ So if you’re headed to see Eleni live and spot a couple of kites dancing in the air above the venue, you’ll know you’re in the right place, and that you’re in for something very special.
♠♠ Wishbone | Mr. Charles (1998)
♠♠ Thrill | Zedtone (2000)
♠♠ Snakebite | Space Baby (2001)
♠♠ Country for True Lovers | Zedtone (2003)
♠♠ Afternoon | Zedtone (2004)
♠♠ Miracle of Five | Zedtone (2007)
♠♠ Voxhall and WUK (live) | Mr. Charles (2007)
♠♠ Artificial Fire | Zedtone (2009)
♠♠ I Can See the Future | Yep Roc (2012)
♠♠ Let's Fly A Kite | Yep Roc (2014)
Singles and EPs:
♠♠ "Turn On the Lights" b/w "I Still Think About You" (7") | Heart of a Champion (2001)
♠♠ "Los Fishes" (split 7" with Mike Gunther) | Heart of a Champion (2004)
♠♠ "Maybe, Yes" [EP] | Heart of a Champion (2004)
♠♠ "Dis–Moi Au Revoir Encore" b/w "Francais 1" (7") | Bonsound (2007)
Also featured on (as full group member):
♠♠ The Grabs — Sex, Fashion, And Money | The Grabs Records (2005)
♠♠ The Living Sisters — Love To Live | Vanguard (2010)
♠♠ The Grabs — Political Disco | Heart OF A Champion (2011)
♠♠ The Living Sisters — Run For Cover | Vanguard (2013)
|Eleni Mandell — Let’s Fly a Kite (2014)|