Rob Marcus EP Review

 

Artist:  Rob Marcus

Album: Rob Marcus EP

Review By: Dan MacIntosh

It’s significant that Rob Marcus grew up loving Northwest bands like Mother Love Bone and Alice In Chains because there is a direct link between those influential bands – most notable for being groundbreaking acts of what would eventually be termed grunge music – and the sounds that Marcus now creates.

A lazy journalist might well describe Marcus’ music as acoustic grunge or grunge-lite. That would not be fair. However, at the very minimum, such descriptors are at least starting points. Marcus sings with great, sincere emotion, as do/did grunge guys; he just doesn’t vocalize like a caveman, as so many grunge bands were prone to do.

Similar to popular bands from the Seattle area, Marcus dearly loves guitar music, and each of these six songs feature beautiful guitar playing. 

Marcus’ vocal style, while clearly inspired by rock & roll, also has a breathy, jazzy tone to it, too. The way his voice bends and slides during “Exit Left” is a beautiful thing. Marcus also counts Jeff Buckley as an influence. While his singing is not as smooth and tricky as Buckley’s is, one can still hear a little of his influence on what Marcus does. Let’s call it a vocal intangible.

The jazziest moment on this EP is “Elephant Island.” The song sports a downright funky bass line, snappy drum work, echoing female vocals and an upbeat Marcus vocal. On it, Marcus sings, “When you hear the music play you feel no pain.” The same can be said about listening to this specific track. It is a happy, upbeat song that expresses the joy that only music can bring. 

Another EP highlight is “Marie.”  The song exists as an invitation to form a romantic partnership, “Take my hand Marie,” Marcus begins its lyric.  This song also contrasts with the projects more rock or jazz moments, and goes for something much more folk-y, instead. Marcus is joined by a female vocalist, for just the right feminine touch. There is also a folk/country fiddle part, which nicely colors the tune. The drumbeat skips along, like a stone across the lake, for a different sort of feel-good song. “Bee” also features a bit of a folk vibe. Its percussion stands out, as it utilizes a stripped down bongos and/or conga sound, rather than a full-on drum kit. 

Marcus’ best acoustic guitar picking is heard on the song “Exit Left.” His guitar playing is upfront in the mix, while supportive cello compliments his singing. In this example, Nick Drake is the closest musical relative to Marcus’ tune. There is an underlying sadness to the track, much like a lot of Drake’s work.  Within its mix, Marcus also effectively layers his own voice in for the background vocal. 

What makes this EP so wonderful is the way it continues to reveal itself to the listener each time it’s played. On the surface, it may at first sound like an acoustic, folk-y collection. It’s only after repeated listens that Marcus’ musical variety starts to come through. You may think of him as one thing -- say, an acoustic rock singer/songwriter. Yet there is so much more to what Marcus does than just that. He takes songs and, instead of giving them predictable folk-ish arrangements, goes the extra mile to provide them with slightly different colors, each and every one. None of this musical spice would mean a thing, however, if Marcus weren’t such a solid singer and guitarist. His natural talent is the glue that holds it all together.

Extended plays, if created by truly talented artists, almost always make you want to hear more music. Such is certainly the case with Marcus. This EP is a small taste from a talented man that obviously has a whole lot of musical goodness in him.  

Review By: Dan MacIntosh

Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)

Dan MacIntosh is a contributer to spin.com, Chord, Amplifier, Paste and HM music publications.