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. The record follows Mandell’s decision to break up with her partner, who appeared less than ready for children, and start a family on her own, choosing an “astrophysicist who likes classic rock” (her words, according to a press release) as her sperm donor. Good call, then.
The album is a simple paean to the joys of motherhood and oozes contentment at every turn. The dream-like song “The Future” begins the record by setting a blissful tone that’s maintained throughout. Its opening couplet, “I want to fall in love again/ I know that it will happen,” neatly equates optimism with happiness. Even when contemplating past mistakes on songs like “Looking To Look For” or “Now We’re Strangers”, Mandell is keen to live the life she has now rather than dwell on one she might have had. Possibly the only time she drops this nostalgia guard is when she recalls halcyon days in the delightful “Magic Summertime”. So perfect is this slice of sugar-coated retro pop that Mandell gets away with rhyming “magical” with “tragical”.
Producer Joe Chiccarelli and a bunch of frontline LA players carefully embroider Mandell’s gentle love songs, whether it’s the spacey synths mixed into “The Future”, sumptuous pedal steel on “Desert Song”, or the quietly understated drums throughout. Eleni Mandell’s soft, honeyed vocals sit somewhere between Karen Carpenter and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Her voice glides from track to track, from pop to country, at times too mellow to register a break in the reverie she creates. Yet in a world overfed with gloom, it’s nice to see a future this bright.
Essential Tracks: “Magic Summertime”, “The Future”