Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Brian Thorn at The Magic Shop, New York City during CMJ week 2012
It's not clear if the lovers in Mean Lady songs are currently together, or if they'll ever be together. They seem adrift -- a long ways from each other and it only makes what they're experiencing more interesting to hear about. There's an ephemeral condition to these romances that makes them feel as if they could all be the stuff of the imagination, put-ons, but really convincing ones, not just couplings designed around stage scenery and mock circumstances. These people could just be ships passing in the night, never in the same room, never sharing the same air, or they could just be unreal, fists of nothingness, of vapor. The feelings remain so vivid and so warm, but there's a distance to them and a pang of loss that might not be loss at all.
There is a mystical beauty to the songs of this exceptional new trio from the state of Delaware that drives them straight into your chest, that makes them feel personal and touching in all of their longing and dreaminess. They get to you in a big way, making you feel like you shouldn't be listening in, or that you should try to help in a way. Lead singer Katie Dill seduces us immediately, with vocals and writing that couldn't be more charming or more vulnerable - all while being laced with a writhing pain that's made to feel good, or better than it really should. Dill might even call it a pretty pain, as if someone could have actually wanted it to exist.
It's often hard to pull yourself away from these songs, as Dill, bassist Sam Nobles and drummer Brian Bruce draw us in and hold us so well. They captivate us with a lilting and foggy sensibility that feels like Brittany Howard of The Alabama Shakes or Sharon Van Etten, singing from a salty shoreline, out to all the wrecks and all of the unknown. Mean Lady music drips with illusions. There are vows that are kept and vows that are trashed. There are dreams that offer comfort and others that offer little of anything but a fit and a readjustment under the covers to get back to sleeping. There's happiness and there's something a little more muted, a little more wishful, but still a variation on the emotion, where faith in something is barely holding it together. It's what makes it possible for someone to ask, "Why do I get worse as you get better?" and not sound as if they're going to crumble. They're just asking, thinking maybe it's just them, believing that they might just be thinking too much and dreaming too little. So, they readjust and they slip back into it.