Man, how do you describe this Mobley album? The first Austin-based artist to have Vinylmnky’s Breakthrough Album of the Month isn’t just an ‘album’ per-se, it’s that Fresh Lies, Vol.I a landmark, genre-bending piece that demands a listener to take notice. Mobley – a self-described songwriter/producer/one-man band is just that. He alone writes, performs, & produces his music, designs his artwork, directs his videos, creates multimedia live shows, and builds new instruments to accomplish what he sets out.
That description of the man himself sounds somewhat breathless, but that’s even before how he describes his own music. In a post on his website about Fresh Lies, Vol.1, Mobley states that “(it) is not an album… I realized that it's actually a much bigger project than that. For me, an album is a statement; its terms and scope are defined. Fresh Lies isn't an album; it's a song cycle -- it's a large collection of songs that are connected by a thematic and conceptual approach. The concept that joins them is that they are all love songs that use romantic interplay as a metaphor to explore my relationship, as a black man especially, with my country.”
Song cycle, album, whatever it is, gets off with a bang with “Hound The World”. it kicks off with a stomach-grumbling fuzz bass line and Mobley’s vocals triplicating over themselves with an irresistible syncopation. The chorus hits: “Don't you wake up wondering how to keep this going?/Don't you wonder how in the world we made it out so far?/Don't you wake up wondering how you keep this going?/Don't you wander? Hound the world. We made it out so far,” he sings as the background vocals soar. It’s an arena pop song that just bursts out of the gate. Thinking this trend may continue on the next track is expected, and perhaps that’s why Mobley circumvents that with the creepy-cool ballad “Young Adult Fiction”. While the album’s opening track shoots for the stars, this track has more of a sensual vocal, seasoned with brief drum bursts and handclaps – a guitar creeps along, winding around corners that can’t be seen, anticipating a dynamic shift that never really blows over. It’s a brilliant piece of auditory storytelling.
You’d think the song “Torch” may be a wink on a ‘torch song,” but of course it isn’t. Instead, it’s a beach-ready summer pop song full of ‘who-ooh” choruses and S U R V I V E – style 80’s synths. It’s staggering. “Selfsame” sounds sort of like The Weeknd, minus the melodrama but with twice as much heart. “Swoon” sounds kind of like a traditional R&B ballad, which may be the most down-to-earth piece on the collection. That’s not a bad thing. It simply shows his breath of talent.
Mobley is a force to be reckoned with, plain and simple. Fresh Lies, Vol.1 is the sound of an artist bursting with ideas, so much so that they shift even within the same song. It’s a set of songs that keeps on pushing the bounds of creativity, something insular with a bright palette. As he writes: “Themes of nationhood and identity and alienation are ones that I'll need decades to explore personally, let alone artistically -- I'm hardly equipped to make an album-sized statement about them right now. I want a place to work with those ideas, but I also want the freedom to put them down, imperfect and incomplete, to go chase other concepts.” He’s going to go several directions. Come back to this one, though, because it’s an incredible start.
- Brendan Hilliard, Obviate Media
This review was written by Brendan Hilliard, of Obviate Media. Obviate Media is a Chicago-based blog covering music and pop culture. Check them out, here: Obviate Media.
Listen to Mobley's Fresh Lies, Vol. 1