Magnolia Memoir

The Perfect Crime

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When the five-piece, L.A.-based ensemble emerged as a local club scene favorite, they were a cool, swinging throwback, driven by a jazz-inflected mix of lead singer Mela Lee's charming Billie Holiday-like vocals, co-founder Alexander Burke's retro keys and vibes, and Gordon Bash's grooving upright bass -- which he climbed onto during performances. Some of the early press materials associated with their self-titled, self-released debut album likened the experience of them to a being in a speakeasy at 3 a.m.. In signing with Peak/eOne for the powerful, remarkably eclectic set The Perfect Crime, the band is still driven by Lee's whimsical yet earthy sensuality, but ventures decisively (and often explosively) into Triple AAA pop/rock territory. In the single-track age of digital downloads, it's refreshing for any emerging band to enter the fray with a dynamic concept album -- and MM dares the listener to come along as Lee, supported by her four dynamic male cohorts, emerges from a floundering relationship, embracing the possibilities of something bigger, and, musically speaking, more edgy, funky, and rocking. She starts by asking what a "Good Girl"'s to do, showing conflict via the high range of her voice contrasted with the band's building blues-rock intensity. A bit of the band's cool jazz background adds a slyness to her desire to then commit "The Perfect Crime," in which she's fearless about breaking hearts. A single track on the album, "Broken Cup (Revolution Remix)" not only fits into this theme (time to get some new glassware to drink love out of), but also reflects MM's deep sonic evolution. The original on the band's debut was a sly and low-key, trumpet-laced swing jazz tune, while here the few mystical jazzy touches give way to a booming rock crescendo in the chorus. This is followed by her high energy, horn-fired declaration that "I Keep Falling." Some of the tunes, like "Just Might Do" and "222," start out reflectively before giving way to emotions perfectly conveyed by Lee's soaring vocals and the band's raucous blues-rock power. Although Magnolia Memoir's songwriting is as incisive as their presentation, their single cover choice, a sizzling rock romp through the White Stripes' "My Doorbell," is perfectly placed. It's a metaphorical invitation to open up and embrace a woman unashamed of honest emotion. Once inside, the listener meets her tough but tender guy friends who are there to lend emotional support to her emergence from a "broken cup" to a fully realized person who dares to keep wishing for the best.

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