Release Date: Jul 10, 2012
Record label: Yep Roc
Far removed from the bluesy and jazzy, angular, noir-filled haze that hovered over much of 2009's Artificial Fire, 2012's I Can See the Future finds the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter grappling with the speed of life with a newfound grace and sensitivity. Flush with the overwhelming joy of motherhood and tempered by the gut punch of being newly single, I Can See the Future feels like a love letter to both, and Mandell, whose hushed and measured delivery has always hinted at the darker of the two forks in the road, sounds remarkably content. Lush, cinematic, and languid, songs like "The Future," with its angelic, Brian Eno-esque synth work, and the Roy Orbison-inspired "Don’t Say No" feel like late-afternoon, dead-of-summer hymns, while bouncier numbers like "Who You Gonna Dance With" and the warm and wonderful single "Magic Summertime" find their inspiration in classic Motown, soul, and Brill Building pop, layering sultry grooves with waves of fluttery organ and laid-back horns, sounding for all the world like they were unearthed from a lost Carly Simon or Dusty Springfield session.
The sultry West Coast country-folk chanteuse has never been the happiest of singer/songwriters, preferring to submerge herself in noir-ish waters of broken hearts and longing for love. So it comes somewhat of a surprise to hear the sheer joy of life, first love and classic pop she exudes in this album’s first single, the delightful “Magic Summertime. ” The retro/contemporary easy rolling hummable nugget with its strings, honeyed female backing vocals and wary, every-silver-lining-has-a-cloud lyrics is a compact example of Mandell’s dew dropped, doe-eyed sound condensed into one lovely five minute burst.
Eleni Mandell should get some sort of medal for the circumstances under which she recorded her latest album, I Can See the Future. Not only did she write it during one of the most difficult periods of her life, a time when she split up with her boyfriend because of procreative differences, sought out a sperm donor, and then, finally, was able to get pregnant (with twins), but she began the recording process when she was eight months pregnant. It’s fitting that she gave birth to twins and her new album around the same time, as the songs on I Can See the Future are, understandably, very closely tied to this trying period of Mandell’s life.
Eleni Mandell has always been a beacon of artistic integrity. It would have been easy for her to sell out long ago, with her stunning voice and songwriting chops, but she walks her own path, penning lyrics that are just a bit too biting and/or clever, and holding back just a smidgen when a lesser talent would attempt to blow the roof off the joint. Very inspirational indeed—and maybe a little crazy.
You could be excused for believing that the land of the singer-songwriter is singularly populated by heartbreak, loss, and introspection. So it comes as a welcome change to find a piece of the West Coast occupied by an artist who seems at one with herself, content and reflective, and using that realization to move forward. LA native Eleni Mandell is a veteran of eight solo albums, the latest of which, I Can See The Future, leaves much of her darker back catalogue behind.