Album Review: Tangle by Saint Marilyn

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Brooklyn duo Saint Marilyn captures new wave synth in a groundbreaking way with debut EP Tangle

From Saint Raymond, Saint Motel, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent, there is now another “Saint” that should be added to your playlist: Saint Marilyn. The Brooklyn duo made up of Che Houston (vocals, synths, drum composition) and Kevin Marksson (bass, programming) are revolutionizing two-player electropop; their distinct synthwave sound is the perfect iteration of modern synth revival. The band’s official Facebook page describes their music as “dark, modern synthpop with hazy synths, thundering percussion, and impassioned vocals.”

Originally from New York, both members left it all behind and moved to LA to make their debut EP happen. They pinched every penny to record Tangle with engineer Chris Coady, who has worked with the likes of Beach House, Slowdive, and Porches, and they didn’t waste any time. Tangle went through the whole process–writing to production–in the Summer of 2017 alone. The six-track EP centers on themes of female identity, emotional isolation, and self-worth. This message comes to fruition in the title track, which depicts a fight and reunion, a tangle, if you will, of emotional turmoil in relationships.

Just this month, Tangle was released and their lead single “Burn, Burn, Burn” immediately hooks listeners in with their reminiscent style of New Order and Muse. According to Houston, the song is about neglect from a romantic partner that leads to a violent disagreement. She wants to finally feel burning passion in their tired partnership, but the argument makes those emotions exponentiate and boil over. This theme is reinforced in the music video for “Burn, Burn, Burn”, which Houston shot and directed using a drone. In the video, Houston focuses on a couple taking a tense drive through a woodsy-forest pass. The drone captures aerial shots of the vibrant span of autumn leaves, heralding the fate of this relationship to soon turn crisp and cold as well.

The first track of Tangle, “Jaws”, sounds like it could be straight out of an 80s science fiction film like James Cameron’s The Terminator. Saint Marilyn’s music would have been a perfect compliment over the club scene where Sarah Connor tries to hide from her assassin. “Jaws” perfectly encapsulates the roots of Synthwave in its heyday. Indeed, Marksson confirms the implication of trauma in “Jaws”: ‘“Jaws” is one of those songs created by a single moment, here of claustrophobia, living in a crowded city. Marksson expresses in lyrics that his home state is suffocating him, as he told The 405. Their next track “Standard” reminds me of Foster The People’s latest album Sacred Hearts Club with its upbeat indie pop and electronic dance mix. However, the song touches upon the impossibly high standards of women in the music and film industry, male-dominated field.Houston’s lyrics encourage women to find their own path. They shot the video for the track at their favorite venue Old Wicked Lady in Brooklyn, New York for it’s simple aesthetic and emotional sentiment.

In “Matchless”, listeners can close their eyes and vividly imagine the drummer hitting an open hi-hat with one stick and the snare with the other to the melodic dream pop beat. Next, the picture melts into Marksson’s fingers dancing over the strings on the bass. Houston confesses that “Matchless” is about rising from her own doubts. Tangle’s fourth track “Wicked”, Marksson shares to Rock Your Lyrics that the EP needed a positive happier tune and the song became about the excitement of meeting someone new.

The passion that was put into this project by Houston and Marksson is overwhelming. Houston sings with an undeniably vulnerable and seductive tone that she draws listeners to crave her voice. It’s almost a blend of Kate Bush and Lauren Mayberry from Chvrches. Although Saint Marilyn considers themselves modern synthpop, they are contemporizing an 80s sub-genre (synthwave) for this generation. Aside from making music for their own band, the two are also scoring an upcoming documentary. Currently, Saint Marilyn is touring in their hometown state, but we hope in the future they grace us with their presence on KALX territory.

Check out their older single “Frustrate Me” 

Jisselle Fernandez aka Stormy Phoenix has been a KALX volunteer since 2015 and is studying in broadcasting. When she’s not volunteering, working, or going to school, she loves to attend concerts!