I learned about Eleni Mandell through an interview on The Sound of Young America podcast.
In the interview, she seemed a little nervous and hesitant, but also charming, thoughtful, and well-spoken. She comes from the Los Angeles music scene of the 1980s, a big fan of the band X, then got connected with Tom Waits, and has been making music under the radar for all this time.
(You should add The Sound of Young America to your playlist too, by the way.)
The occasion of the interview was that she was promoting a new album, Artificial Fire, and so she played some songs, just her singing and playing acoustic guitar.
You know how you’ll hear an interview with a musician, and he talks about his influences and how he writes, and you’ll think, “Oh, he loves exactly the things I love! I’m going to love his music too.” And then you hear the music, and it’s just completely different from anything you would ever like or choose to listen to, and so you vow never to listen to interviews of musicians again? Maybe that only happens to me. It happens to me a lot.
Anyway, so that’s what I expected would happen. But Eleni Mandell played a few songs from Artificial Fire, and she turned out to be exactly the kind of musician I have wanted to hear lately. Her voice is warm and lush, a little deep and sexy, and her lyrics are smart without being uber-clever, and the songs are interesting and melodic, sometimes hummable and sometimes complex and layered.
Incidentally, the song that most knocked me out was “Personal.” You can hear it on the Eleni Mandell website, and you can order the album there too. If she ever releases an acoustic version, it will be the best thing ever recorded.
Artifical Fire represents something of a departure for her style. Prevous albums are what you might call “folky chanteuse,” while this new album is a bit more rocking and varied. I like it all, but you might want to search through her catalog and see which flavors you prefer.