For me all art is, on some level, about introspection. Be it in a novel, film, or song, the artist is sharing a piece of themselves, whether it’s their view of the world, how they deal with relationships, or how they explore their innermost dreams and desires. Sometimes the art of creation itself is simply a therapy to get it all out in the open. Through every piece, we as the audience gain a piece of the puzzle that makes that creator who they are.
With that in mind, Mariana Bell must have been going through some serious stuff while writing the songs on her latest album, Push. From the title song to the last track, you can tell some of that introspection was going on. As she says in “On It”: “Thank you for making me see myself.” Whether seeking some inner peace or in understanding relationships with those around her, she seems to be questing for answers everywhere.
But what I love about this album is that though it’s airy in places, it’s dark in others. Styles flow effortlessly from pop to folk to almost country, rock and blues, as instrumentals combine beautifully with her voice and backing tracks in rich, but not overly complex arrangements. The ten tracks on Push offer a lush landscape of unique sounds, styles, and words evoking emotions throughout. Bell reminds me quite a bit of Shawn Colvin, with a voice that lends itself well to this kind of cross-genre work.
My favorite song on the album is “Good Enough,” which perfectly suits my relationship with my wife: “As long as you’re good enough, and come back home to me / Then we can fall in love again. / I never asked you to be perfect, no… just be good enough.” There’s an honesty there that’s impossible to ignore. Love crests and falls and compromises, but lasts through it all. With a solid drum beat and electric guitars, this song definitely reflects the contemporary country-rock vein of artists like Lady Antebellum. And though I’m not a huge country guy, the style in this case simply works.
The same holds true for the rockin’ “California Clay,” which keeps that honesty flowing. Love sometimes drives you to do crazy things for people, so I can identify with these lyrics: “It’s not that I can’t leave I just don’t want to… / Don’t need a leash. I’ll stay easily. I’m putty in your hand.” And its last image, of attraction between lovers — “Metal sheets and a lead pillow so are we bed magnets.” — is sexy and sultry all at the same time. The sound of this one is much harder, with a rock beat and underlying electric guitar that pulls it all along.
From its opening strings, “Titanic” made me think completely of the film. And through analogy, this song tells the story of a relationship gone wrong. Like the movie, you can see the iceberg in the distance yet somehow can’t change course: “Of the greatest disaster, that would ever be the greatest disaster – you and me.” Guitars, strings, and reverb help tell the story of the end.
Push may represent a single, continuous flow from the fleeting beginnings of love to the bitter end of a relationship, as it shares such a journey through song. I hope we hear much more from Mariana Bell and that she once again shares her loves and losses with us in the future.
For more on Push, Bell’s previous albums, and her tour schedule, be sure to check out her official website.