When I first came into contact with Marcelyn’s music, it was being featured heavily on Temple University’s “The Basement Show,” a now-defunct radio show started by Brittany Rizzo to showcase local DIY artists. I was immediately drawn in by the abrupt, unapologetic demeanor she possessed as she demonstrated her own raw brand of angsty and alternative singer/songwriter music.
At the time, she had already released an EP as well as her debut full length record, “Indignities and Depravities.” The former was self-described as “just a normal everyday look into the mind of a typical 20 something-year-old trying not to crumble into a heap of sadness,” a brief, three track collection that featured stripped down, minimalist renderings of the style she would expound on in the future. Indeed, two of those three tracks would end up on her first full length album in a more fleshed out form. “Indignities and Depravities” saw her continue to refine her vision, as songs like “Elephant in the Room” saw her introduce some of her most prominent themes such as body positivity and unwavering self-worth.
“Indignities” set the table for her latest work, the punchy and incisive “This Is Women’s Lib?” I was excited as she ramped the album’s promotional campaign, expecting her to grow on her previous efforts and mature as a songwriter. During this promotional campaign, I witnessed a lot of Marcelyn’s live performances through her postings on social media. It was this version of Marcelyn I had grown to know.
And then the new record dropped.
While her live shows generally see Marcelyn accompanying herself with a ukulele, “This Is Women’s Lib?” employs a masquerade of instrumental performances, each one shifting in shape and color to paint its own appropriate landscape. Her primary tool of tonal expression, both live and on record, is her voice. Each track on “This Is Women’s Lib?” possesses a unique timbre as she mourns, pouts, exclaims and frets her way through the record.
‘This Is Women’s Lib?’ employs a masquerade of instrumental performances, each one shifting in shape and color to paint its own appropriate landscape.
The opening track, “Better”, is a meditative, hymn-like acapella piece that drums up feelings of agitation towards oneself for excessive forgiveness in the face of a lover’s continuous red flags. This track sees Marcelyn correlating her lyrics with the backing vocal harmonies; they are repetitive and self-affirming. “Better” sets the tone for the record to come, as much of the lyrical content reads like constructive criticism disguised as a drunken pep talk with your best friend in the upstairs bathroom of a crowded frat party.
Panic-inducing social phobias have never been so catchy than on “#1 Babe.” Marcelyn highlights her poppiest tendencies on this track as she blitzes through the bouncy ode to crippling anxiety. Even upon first listen, this one was a personal favorite. It successfully captures Marcelyn’s wonderfully melodic sensibilities and pairs them brilliantly with a fast-paced, up-beat rager of a backing track.
The record’s sixth track, “Jealous Heart”, is perhaps one of the better written tunes on “This Is Women’s Lib?” It carries itself in a jaunty, staccato-like waltz. This, however, is contrasted by Marcelyn’s signature self-diagnosis as a neurotic, almost bitter miserablist. All of this is to say that this track saunters along casually while cutting to the core of anyone overly familiar with the many manifestations of self-doubt.
Despite these successes, “This Is Women’s Lib?” is not without flaw. In Marcelyn’s brazen attempts to prove that a college-aged, insecurity-riddled brand of alternative pop music is as relevant as ever, she also contributes evidence that the full-length record as a long-winded, cohesive artistic statement may be seeing its influence waning in popular culture. Perhaps this is a natural progression; it’s built into the infrastructure of our music outlets. There is a clear inverse relation between the listener’s attention span and the accessibility of certain music. As the avenues to discover new artists grows, our capacity to comprehend each work lessens. Streaming sites such as Bandcamp, Soundcloud and Spotify have armed every half-baked artistic project with the means to have their music heard the world over in exchange for minimal effort.
Marcelyn successfully sidesteps the pitfalls commonly committed by some of her indie counterpoints …
Marcelyn successfully sidesteps the pitfalls commonly committed by some of her indie counterpoints, such as the poorly crafted, loosely implied aesthetics of the current wave of bedroom popstars, or the psychedelic overindulgence rampant throughout the University City basement circuit. She carries herself with much more self-awareness than the worst offenders on either of those sides. She, nevertheless, fails to escape the sense of self-importance that leads an artist to release such an expansive and eclectic collection of pop songs during an era in which consumers are simply not interested, or capable, of digesting a work of that magnitude.
Clocking in at 46 minutes and change, “This Is Women’s Lib?” pumps out 15 tracks that, while raising the brow of any casual normcore listener, ultimately falls short of keeping my attention throughout. The well-structured and infectious pop bops that she displays on tracks such as the aforementioned “#1 Babe” and “Jealous Heart” seem too few and far between, often times separated by several tracks that present little more than mere motifs and contextless hooks.
“Funny/Not Funny,” for example, sounds like Marcelyn’s best attempt at scoring a Nick Jr. television advertisement. While this is far from a slight, the song’s meandering tone leaves the listener’s head cocked to the side, waiting for the punchline, only to be let down when it doesn’t land. It’s fun. It’s jovial. As a result, it evokes little else from its listener.
Overall, “This Is Women’s Lib?” is a mixed bag. Its best songs establish Marcelyn as a promising purveyor of body-positive earworms, while its worst do their best to counter the more emotionally resonant moments with quirky, superfluous ramblings. If Marcelyn was. in fact, dead set on producing a full length record, she could have easily done so without the added fluff and filler on display. All gaffes aside, I am very much looking forward to watching Marcelyn continue her progression and ascension in the Philadelphia indie scene as she inevitably continues to refine her vision and aesthetic. Marcelyn’s music and ethos are undoubtedly some of the more interesting acts to cross my ear in the last couple of years and, I’m certain a few spins of “This Is Women’s Lib?” will leave the listener feeling similarly.
Justin Bifolco is an English major with a minor in journalism. JB933932@wcupa.edu