So Lauren and I are talking about our own feminist philosophy on women embracing sexuality. Meanwhile, my life is in serious need of a boost—not necessarily musical, but I’ll take what I can get. And then a gift from the music gods appears before me and now both playing fields are looking a little brighter. This gift came in the form of my latest obsession: Marian Hill. We’ve got Jeremy Lloyd on production and Samantha Gongol for vocals, the two collab-ing to write their songs. The result is the seven-song album, “Sway” and two singles that have nestled themselves nicely into my pbr&b playlist. And yes, they’ve got that electronic, bass-heavy, subtly sexy sound I enjoy so much. But they’ve also managed to incorporate something else into their music that really excites me and draws me in: a notable jazz influence.
Marian Hill has a clear 21st century sound, there’s no doubt about that. But between blaring bass and Banks-like vocals (little higher pitch, little more sassy bitch), there’s a strong 1920’s/30’s sound. Think Jay Z’s Great Gatsby soundtrack, minus the flash, plus some serious suave. “Got It” gets dancey through the use of a trumpet (I think? For someone who’s so into music, I can’t identify instruments for the life of me). And the song “Lips” is driven by a series of snaps. How often do you hear something like that nowadays? Each of these songs could be successful without these old-timey elements, but with them they create a crossover genre that excellently evokes the best of both our generation and that of Jay Gatsby, despite the nearly 100 year gap.
And if we’re drawing from Fitzgerald’s fictional depiction of the time period, especially through the lens of Baz Luhrmann and Jay Z, we can certainly draw some parallels. Both are underground sounds, danced to by delinquent youth, embracing some cultural rebellion. This spirit of resistance is what sold me on Marian Hill. Their album opens with “One Time” and sets the tone for everything to come. Being a college student, in the midst of hookup culture, this song captured a part of my life I’ve yet to determine how I feel about with admirably confident precision. “One Time” is a song about your basic hit-it-and-quit-it dude. But instead of also being a song about a sad, unfulfilled woman, this is also a song about a woman who, like this man, is embracing her sexuality and forming her own rules based on her own needs. Gongol sings, “Boy if you wanna go I would not mind // But I’m not the kind of drum you play one time.” She’s not saying she needs a commitment; she’s not saying she disapproves hooking up. She is, however, defining her own sexuality and bless her beautiful soul because, god damn it, women too are allowed to explore any type of intimate relationship they’d like without being used and thrown away for doing so!
With this introduction, Marian Hill forms a solid foundation. The rest of the album, as well as their singles (“Play” explores an especially interesting dynamic—because it’s equal and fair and both life and this song point out that that’s harder to find than you’d expect), continue with these types of strong, independent female messages. “Wasted” puts an over-the-top guy in his place; “You ain’t make my dreams come true // I’ve already got them // … // You say I’m the perfect girl // Don’t you even try it”. Even the heartbroken “Deep”, while recognizing her love for this man, recognizes her need to move on; “Love the way you make me feel, I want it all the time // Hate the way you make me feel, you’re all that’s on my mind.” I don’t want to sound over-the-top myself, but I feel genuinely empowered by Marian Hill’s lyics. So get your jazz-inspired pbr&b on and listen to these two. I promise, unless you’re a misogynist with bad taste, you won’t regret it. Then, you know if you’re feeling up for it, let’s start a revolution for women’s right to confidently own their sexuality, yeah?