Maria Mena

Apparently Unaffected

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Hailing from Norway, singer Maria Mena found herself with some surprisingly high success at only 15 years old, a pop prodigy incorporating adult levels of emotion into her songwriting early, and backing it up with a soulful vocal that carries the right pieces to make the sound whole. On Apparently Unaffected, her third album builds strongly upon her previous efforts. While there are a few fairly standardized pop tracks (the bouncing but lyrically flat "Boytoy Baby"), the bulk of the album uses well-constructed arrangements set around the strong but intentionally unmanipulated vocals of Mena. The pieces pack an emotional punch through her delivery as much as through the lyrics. There's longing here, and passion, and a guarded vulnerability. Mena has a slight warble to much of her phrasing, a touch that makes some of the passages sound as though pried from an emotional outburst. For the most part, though, this makes for a nice addition to fairly moving tracks. It can be a bit much over the course of the album as a whole, but on any individual track, the sound is entirely refreshing, something worth hearing anew now and then. She's still breaking into the American markets, having captured much of the European scene already, but Mena, and most of Apparently Unaffected, are worth seeking out.

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