Mansions - New Best Friends (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


New Best Friends (2009)


Mansions' Christopher Browder is a young and talented character that some might go so far as to call a genius. The 24-year-old (25 now?) writes and records emotionally wrought and woefully heady songs made all the more mesmerizing and atmospheric by production from Mike Sapone -- a man who helped spell out the haunting, layered dynamics of Brand New's The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. Browder certainly doesn't meet the genius achieved on that particular album, but it's a good comparison to make, because Sapone's touch perfectly brings out the sincerity and restraint that makes Mansions' New Best Friends such a success.

The album opens with "I Told a Lie," a minute-long, stunted version of the same song that appeared on Mansions' 2008 self-titled EP. It makes sense, since it serves itself as a pensive, abrupt introduction before launching into "Talk Talk Talk," one of Browder's best compositions to date. The dynamic in this song is absolutely wonderful, letting the verses transition to an explosive, bone-chilling chorus where Browder lashes out at a narcissistic acquaintance.

One might fault Browder a bit for "Por Favor Is Spanish," where on paper the lyrics read a bit middle school diary-esque: "She was kissing somebody who wasn't her boyfriend. / She met him at a bar, / he was a hot Australian. / She didn't mean to do it / but she liked his accent / and somehow I'm responsible." However, repeat listens convert an otherwise embarrassing narrative into refined hooks that resonate with a listener well.

New Best Friends continues much in this fashion, with Browder spilling his guts in whispered form and aching snarls, a mix of warm acoustics and more sharp electric guitar swirling, like the would-be love child of Jesse Lacey and Chris Conley. "The Worst Part" is even the best song Straylight Run never wrote. Still, though, aside from "Talk Talk Talk," none of these songs really match the consistent heartstring-tugging of his later works that infiltrated The EP Initiative (New Best Friends was recorded in February 2008, with many of the songs written in the months and years prior; many of the Initiative songs were written and recorded later that year). There's no real "When I Sleep" or "I Swear," and on New Best Friends Browder doesn't quite achieve pure, raw emotion like he does in songs like those.

Still, New Best Friends remains a rather captivating and lushly recorded debut, a surprisingly compelling 43 minutes. Standing alone, it's a good enough album, but the bonus MP3 disc with another 38 tracks -- some of which, as aforementioned, eclipse Friends' songs -- is the icing on a very tasty cake.

Talk Talk Talk
The Worst Part