You may be asking “Why is he going with a peated Scotch for his first ever review? And why is he pairing it with a Neo-soul/R&B indie artist’s EP?”
There are a couple of reasons.
I feel like it may be better if I tried a gin, or a glass of some fine wine. But I asked Mercedes herself what I should pair with it (from a selection from my own cabinet) and she said the Laphroaig, probably because its something slightly unfamiliar to her.
Also I don’t have any gin or fine wine.
For those who don’t know, the Laphroaig 10 is a mainstay in the Laphroaig line, and it is one of the most recognizable brands from Islay, Scotland. Islay is renowned for drying their malt with burning peat, imparting that iconic smoky flavor into the whisky. I found this smoky flavor to match perfect with Mercedes’ smoky, smooth voice.
“Now, Now” starts off the EP with a chorus of Mercedes and a group of background singers singing a variation on the chorus through a hi-pass filter. This song sets the tone for the album; groovy, a little jazzy, and extremely charming. Mercedes’ uses lyrics that really fit well with the instrumentals of the song. They seem almost familiar, but are different enough to show off her talents as a new-to-the-scene songwriter and make us want more. The musicians and backup singers she’s picked are phenomenal. The band is tight and groovy, and the singers do their job well. I really got into the last chorus as the band gets into the half-time feel. It adds that extra push the song needed to be well rounded. Altogether, this song sets up the rest of the EP extremely well.
My favorite line in the song is “A new addition to the old gang, he’s passing all the trials.” It’s clever, it’s familiar to everyone. Who hasn’t run their new love interest by their group of friends? It’s a necessity if these lovebirds want to continue on their love-venture.
“Sleepless” intros with something that reminds me of the “Enchantment Under The Sea Dance” scene(s) in Back To The Future part 1. I’m not sure why. But this song just has that vintage, love-song feel. The horns just add to this in the best way. Elseth did a great job with his arrangements. As Mercedes’ voice enters, some of the layers fade and bring a more raw song with the keys becoming the main attraction here (at least in my opinion) with the guitar adding just a little bit of fun in the left side. Then, comes the chorus. It’s a little different. A little more groovy, a little more like Chris Tucker dancing to Michael Jackson in Rush Hour 2. But it fits the song well. Again, those backup singers know what they’re doing. The band is tight here. They have to be, otherwise the song wouldn’t work.
This song is the necessary sequel to “Now, Now.” It adds a little bit more funk, yet brings in a little more of Mercedes’ soft side. The second chorus comes down just enough to wonder where it may be going, but then the bridge comes in full force with an almost big-band kind of feel. Then, the song fades, putting the final brick in the song.
“Following A Tangled Thread” is the perfect final song. I feel like I need to be sitting down on my couch enjoying the night with my wife BUT WAIT. The chorus brings in more of the groove you’ve heard in the previous two songs, but with a wonderful, modern twist; this is where she earns that “neo-soul” tag. The band is so tight, I feel like my shirt is too small. Then, just like that, it loosens up a little bit and lets the band shine a little bit. The horns have a little bit of a soli that just shows them off a bit more, and I love it. The second verse is just so lovely to listen to; the band grooves behind her silky voice, and then everyone builds into the second chorus. The chorus continues to build and build and build, until the song becomes a perfect balance of funk and easy-listening. Finally just as easy as it came in, the funk resolves, and the song dissolves into the perfectness of itself. Mercedes comes back in with a reprisal of the chorus, this time accompanied only by a solo electric guitar. The two complement each other until she sings “then never again,” leaving behind the guitar and ending the EP with just her voice. Overall, a perfect way to end the EP.
Mercedes’ hard work on this EP has clearly shown through. It’s been a work in progress since late 2015, and it was so worth the wait. The blend of Mercedes’ master-class songwriting, her band’s tight knit performance (not to mention the background vocalists’ beautifully crafted harmonies), and the arrangement of the horns has created a wonderful EP of pure groove that keeps me wanting more. I can unbiasedly say that this EP is a solid 90/100 points. Keep up the good work, Mariah.
Now, onto the Laphroaig 10. The nose is slightly sweet with medicinal and nutty hints, and a splash of the wonderful, salty sea-spray that you get from living on an island in the ocean. There is a quick, almost cooling sensation on the tongue. Thicker, oily mouthfeel. On the palate there is the immediate nuttiness, accompanied by the obvious smoke from the peat. Not too much of a burn, and not extremely salty. The medicinal, adhesive-like flavor is in there too, but just enough to make you love it. The finish is lingering with the smoky flavor. Not too bitter or too sweet. Adding a drop of water brings out some of the saltiness and takes out some of the nutty flavors. It also sweetens up on the finish.
Obviously, its hard to compare a peated Scotch with a bourbon or Irish, but this is a wonderfully crafted Scotch from Islay. It will be a mainstay one my shelf for as long as they produce it, and it goes great with this EP by Mariah Mercedes. Don’t drink too much, however, because it may ruin your focus on the music.