Some of the most memorable movie soundtracks are the ones where the music sets the mood. It’s our human nature to try to link new experiences with the familiar. Perhaps that’s why listening to How Does One Begin, the recently released debut album from Mary Simich, makes the mind envision hearing the record paired with a dark western, a surreal thriller, or even artsy noir.
Produced by King Khan and released through Ernest Jenning Record Co., the twelve-track record takes classic country-western and gives it a haunting edge. Simich’s dusty vocals on, “Problems of Your Past,” feels like a time capsule from the bygone days of country music. However, the dark chords and plaintive delivery reminds us of more modern takes on the genre ala Orville Peck. “How Do You Wanna Die,” and “Don’t You Cry,” blend rockabilly elements into their throw-back country sound. “In These Times,” blends elements of oldies pop with a musical pairing that reminds you of a calliope’s melody. You can easily envision its part-soothing-part-unsettling aura playing behind wild scenes in a film like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Natural Born Killers, or The Big Lebowksi.
Not all the tracks take Simich’s voice down a smoky path. On the title track, “How Does One Begin,” she showcases a more classic vocal quality and the music itself almost feels like a standalone because it genuinely feels upbeat. A blend of rockabilly and doo-wop influences lets it draw comparisons to some of Logan Ledger’s works or The Everly Brothers. Simich’s ability to hit the high notes on “How Does One Begin” will likely make the listener hungry to hear Simich explore her range on future albums.
Pop culture always likes to return to the past. Retro is cool and on How Does One Begin, Mary Simich certainly gives us a healthy dose of throwback country-western and oldies-pop vibes. However, it’s not yet another album that simply copies sounds from the past. Rather, like a good movie soundtrack, the album draws us in with what we know but allows our minds to drift to unexpected places.
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Photos of Mary Simich by FABIAN FiOTO