Mercer
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Mercer

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May
16
Mercer @ Delaney's Hole in the Wall, 2952 North Main Street (www.delaneys.com)

North Conway, New Hampshire, USA

North Conway, New Hampshire, USA

Apr
05
Mercer @ Andy's, 337 1/2 High St (www.andys-ctown.com)

Chestertown, Maryland, USA

Chestertown, Maryland, USA

Mar
22
Mercer @ The Sterling Hotel, 343 Hamilton Street (www.thesterlinghotel.com)

Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA

Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA

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Music

Press


Queens Boulevard runs broad and bold through the borough of Queens and is considered by many to be the most dangerous thoroughfare in New York. During the daytime, traffic courses through its many lanes. As night's grip hardens, the swirling headlights gradually become intermittent, allowing the silent shadows an occasional reprieve. It is a world ripe for exploration, with stories and secrets deftly hidden around the corners and among the shadows. The New York-based trio Mercer captures this scene beautifully on Hourglass, their first full-length studio album, which is home to layers of swirling colors and subtle sonic revelations. Hourglass, named for the feeling cultivated by its title track, is an album marked by exceptional attention to detail that rewards repeat listens and suggests the young group's potential. At times, Hourglass is reminiscent of the more recent offerings from Death Cab for Cutie, with driving melodies twisting about and around the lyrics. Mercer's sound also offers hints and echoes of Ben Folds, Rufus Wainwright and Eels.

The needle drops first on "Bruise," a song penned by lead singer Michael McKegney, who wrote the lyrics for all but two songs on the album. "Bruise" is an ode to that mysterious yet common ability of pain to dissolve apathy and reassure us of our humanity. Mercer attempts to conjure up that experience through the song's feel, by eventually slashing the song's ordered harmonics with violent, sweeping guitars and a torrent of emotion. Like a few other tracks on the album, "Bruise" has readily apparent promise, but doesn't quite deliver. The lyrics suffice, but they don't offer any striking Waits-like revelations or capture the personal element of the emotion in the way Springsteen might. And, as lyrics and the music don't quite fit together perfectly, the song is left with somewhat of an unexceptional feel.

Yet, Mercer's aim is true on songs like "92," "The Payback," "Elijah," and "Queens Boulevard," where the vocals and lyrics rest comfortably on carefully crafted swirling sonic cushions. Such songs, which include many of the album's high points, perhaps best illuminate Mercer's feel and potential. Indeed, "Queens Boulevard" may ultimately prove to be the track on Hourglass that most closely approaches Mercer's true identity and sound. The words and the sounds move in concert to paint a rich and vivid scene, illuminating and invigorating the landscape as they propel the listener through Queens. The song starts slowly and gently, sketching out a naively quiet night. McKegney's soft vocals drift like specters through the City's empty streets and blind alleys. Then, without warning yet right on time, a blast of distortion-soaked notes tears through the silence like a foghorn, relaying a reminder that the comfort of hiding in the shadows is almost always temporary.

After absorbing Hourglass a few times, it became apparent that an appreciation of Mercer's musicianship, patience, and attention to detail might require at least a few listens to the album for all but the most immediately discerning of listeners. Mercer's strength, at least at this point, is musicianship – the band is extremely tight and the textures, colors and layers of sound are precise and professional. There is also an uncommon maturity in Mercer's playing, a general awareness to know when to exercise restraint and when to come unchained. However, at times, Mercer's restrained and subtle blend of sounds can become almost too mechanical. In those instances, the songs could benefit from some tattered grit and gravelly imperfection to make their well-carved contours more corporeal. The lyrics also sometimes fall short and seem like an afterthought to the dominating colors of the sound pouring from the instruments. But, in the end, Hourglass is one of those albums that blossoms further with each successive listen. Mercer's profuse attention to detail in the crafting of subtle layers allows the repeat listener to uncover the previously unnoticed sounds and textures hiding among the writhing melodies and shadowy harmonies that fill Hourglass. - Dan Mazanec - Spindividual.com


Rating : 8 out of 10

I just love the way this album begins, with the track "Bruise". A lilting piano melody with equally mellow lyrics, that really ease you in. What's unusual about this track is that it would have sat well at either the end of the album. Everything about this album, screams a certain level of comfort. The vocals and melodies are relatively simple, but they gel together so well. "Nice to Meet You" is another case in point. It just reeks of elegant simplicity. There's sometimes a lot of temptation to cram as much into an album as you can, but this cramming of quantity, does nothing to improve an albums quality and can sometimes lead to an over produced cacophony of noise. This isn't a concern here.

The title track has a strange feel to it. When I say that, what I actually mean, is that it possesses a strange quality. It's one of those tracks that seems to last forever. It's only a tad over 3 minutes and 30 seconds, but there's something about it that just seems to go on forever. It's not a bad track by any means, but it's strangely hypnotic. "The Other Side" also possesses some of these qualities, but again it's in no way a criticism.

That wonderful piano returns again for the track "Indiscretion", which is one of my favorite tracks on the album. There's just somethings I'm a sucker for, this style of piano, mellow acoustic guitar and stellar female vocals are among them. "The Payback" begins well, but takes a bit of a swan dive. I was really getting into this track until the vocals started I'm not sure if it's the words or delivery, but there's something about this track that feels like two songs bodged together, which is a shame. "92" is another track that starts with great promise and actually delivers.

I'm a strong believer in opening and closing an album strongly. Whilst the album does open strongly I felt that the final 2 tracks "Last Hello" and "In the End" should have been switched. Personal preference, but the "Last Hello" just has the right mood to close off with.

Conclusion : This very much an album of the time. A very contemporary sound, but with an underlying maturity that is just a pleasure to listen to. - Colin Meeks - www.indielaunchpad.com


Rating : 8 out of 10

I just love the way this album begins, with the track "Bruise". A lilting piano melody with equally mellow lyrics, that really ease you in. What's unusual about this track is that it would have sat well at either the end of the album. Everything about this album, screams a certain level of comfort. The vocals and melodies are relatively simple, but they gel together so well. "Nice to Meet You" is another case in point. It just reeks of elegant simplicity. There's sometimes a lot of temptation to cram as much into an album as you can, but this cramming of quantity, does nothing to improve an albums quality and can sometimes lead to an over produced cacophony of noise. This isn't a concern here.

The title track has a strange feel to it. When I say that, what I actually mean, is that it possesses a strange quality. It's one of those tracks that seems to last forever. It's only a tad over 3 minutes and 30 seconds, but there's something about it that just seems to go on forever. It's not a bad track by any means, but it's strangely hypnotic. "The Other Side" also possesses some of these qualities, but again it's in no way a criticism.

That wonderful piano returns again for the track "Indiscretion", which is one of my favorite tracks on the album. There's just somethings I'm a sucker for, this style of piano, mellow acoustic guitar and stellar female vocals are among them. "The Payback" begins well, but takes a bit of a swan dive. I was really getting into this track until the vocals started I'm not sure if it's the words or delivery, but there's something about this track that feels like two songs bodged together, which is a shame. "92" is another track that starts with great promise and actually delivers.

I'm a strong believer in opening and closing an album strongly. Whilst the album does open strongly I felt that the final 2 tracks "Last Hello" and "In the End" should have been switched. Personal preference, but the "Last Hello" just has the right mood to close off with.

Conclusion : This very much an album of the time. A very contemporary sound, but with an underlying maturity that is just a pleasure to listen to. - Colin Meeks - www.indielaunchpad.com


Discography

"Hourglass" - full length album, self-released Oct. 14, 2006

Photos

Bio

Mercer formed in New York in the summer of 2005 and began writing material at an aggressive pace. Armed with the mission of taking the piano to a new place in indie/rock music, Mercer pushed itself to create an edgy and complex sound not often heard in a piano-based band. Combining the melodic forces of Coldplay and Keane with the rhythmic intensity of the Mars Volta, the band continues to explore new sounds and ideas with each new song. The stripped-down, 3-piece band relies on equal contributions from all members, and the wealth of ideas brought forth results in songs that highlight individual abilities while remaining true to the song as a whole. Consisting of only a piano, an electric guitar, drums, and vocals, the band manages to create a thick, layered sound that is greater than the sum of all the parts.

After playing weekend gigs in staple NYC venues such as the Mercury Lounge, the Living Room, and the Cutting Room, the band entered the recording studio in March 2006 with veteran producer/multi-instrumentalist Jimi Zhivago and engineer Pete DeBoer. The goal was to create an album that captured the essence of the live 3-piece performance but allowed the band to fill in the missing pieces and craft the songs the way they were meant to sound. A remote horse farm-turned-recording studio in North Brookfield, MA called Long View served as the location for this transformation. Free from the normal distractions of life in the city, the band was able to work with Jimi to find the best ideas and arrangements for each song. With access to top-of-the-line vintage gear, the sounds on the album stood out and allowed the songs to begin to take on a timeless feel. As the sessions went on and the songs took form, the members of the band played as though they truly believed they were a part of something special. After two weeks of tracking, the band emerged with 12 tracks that captured the creative vibe of the sessions and summed up 7 months of hard work to get to that point.

Mercer's debut album "Hourglass" was self-released on October 14th, 2006. The album was mixed at The Magic Shop, NYC and mastered by Joe Gastwirt at Joe Gastwirt Mastering.