ALBUM REVIEW: Marian Hill’s ‘Unusual’ can be your entire bedroom playlist

Marian Hill arrived on the scene with their debut record ACT ONE in 2016 as something much different than what we were hearing in the electronic music scene at the time. Two years later with their sophomore record Unusual, we can say the same.

Featuring sparse production but with a lot of depth, emphasis is put on the sultriness of Samantha Gongol’s vocals and the songwriting of the duo that also features producer Jeremy Lloyd. The saxophone of collaborator Steve Davit — who also tours with the group as a live member — also helps set their sound apart from other electronic acts.

My Twitter-sized review of this album is that it can easily displace whatever you currently have for when you’re getting down in your bedroom. From front to back, the album plays like a possible sex playlist. If the production wasn’t sexy enough, Gongol’s vocals and inflection of her voice when singing about love and lust puts it over the top. In fact, playing this album while making it happen could help prevent things from being just a one-night stand.

The album opener “Subtle Thing” sets the tone for the rest of the album. “Differently” follows as a sort of sequel to the song, with a seductive Gongol wondering what went wrong in a relationship and how things could have gone differently.

Oftentimes less is more and the lack of over-the-top production techniques that plague many good electronic songs helps you fully take in what Gongol is singing about. On “Wish You Would”, she sings about wanting someone that’s in a relationship. “Now you got someone else / I wish you could / See me watching your belt / I wish you would / Call me up on the phone / I wish you could / Take me back to your room / I wish you would, I wish you could,” she sings.

“Sideways” is the slowest-burner on the album with Gongol singing in a more traditional way than on most of the other tracks. A simple keyboard line is mostly all that sits behind her gorgeous voice as she sings longingly about another person. The song is like a refreshing glass of water from the spiciness of many of the lustful tracks that come before it on the record.

Marian Hill are spiritual siblings to Sylvan Esso in that it’s minimal production fronted by swaggy-as-hell female vocalists — and the drops in the songs are just as satisfying as any drop you hear in a radio EDM track.

Unusual drops Friday, May 11 via Republic Records and I highly recommend giving it a listen. Pre-order here. Catch them on tour if you can, or at Electric Forest this summer. We loved their Fonda Theatre show and can’t wait until they’re back in LA.


Photo by Tim Aarons

Marian Hill gets Fonda Theatre crowd grinding