We aren’t in short supply of kickass proxy converters. And we certainly aren’t in short supply of R&B/pop hybrid artists in our current music climate. There’s the moody atmospheric approach, with household names like The Weeknd. There’s the silky smooth approach, such as Silk Sonic. There’s the hip-hop influenced blend, think Drake and Kanye.
And then there’s Amber Mark. A singer, songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist who performs with her heart on her sleeve, backed by gorgeous harmonies, tasteful samples, incredible synth work, and genre splicing magic like nobodies business.
Since her 2017 breakout EP, 3:33 am, Mark has more or less been entirely focused on her debut LP, Three Dimensions Deep. The end result is 4 years of personal growth, on full display for listeners to learn and experience. She divides the project into three acts, WITHOUT, WITHHELD, and WITHIN, representing different periods of emotional growth. The gradual shift between the three breathes life and surrealism into the tracks. As Amber grows, you grow with her.
Take Most Men, an electric organ-led slow burn, in which Mark comforts a friend who’s dating a disloyal man. Mark tells her that real love “comes from within”. Two tracks later on Bubbles, the artist finds herself in a similar situation and follows her own advice to a tee. “I dust your name off my shoulders”. The continuity of Mark’s beliefs makes the album an engaging, interconnected listening experience. It’s an advantage for singer-songwriters like her. Her lyrics are her own, not written by an industry head, so naturally, they will feel authentic and cohesive.
Throughout Three Dimensions Deep, there is, unsurprisingly, a deep interest regarding our universe, and our connection to it. Every issue Mark has faced in the last four years, whether it be relationships, her position in the music industry, or battles with anxiety, ultimately circles back to the question we all ask ourselves. Where is my place in this vast, lonely, universe?
“I don’t know if I’ll ever succeed, I just want you proud of me up above” she sings to the sky on opener One. It’s a potential reference to her late mother, who was the focus interest for Mark’s incredible, emotional 3:33 am. On a lighter note, there are plenty of subtle Star Wars references throughout this new record, so die-hard fans can have a field day with that.
If I were to make a criticism of the record, it would be the 17-track length. It’s very difficult to maintain a listeners interest for so long (1 hr runtime), and Mark does a wonderful job, but of course, there is some filler. Darkside, Mark’s take on a Prince/Michael Jackson/Phil Collins-esque track, is groovy, but a little uninspired. ‘Skywalking by your solar system” is a little cringe.
So, we’ve talked about the feel and mood of the album, but what are the standout tracks? A great question. I’d say about 70% of the tracks are brilliant, but these three upcoming recommendations are my absolute favourites.
The first recommendation also happens to be the artists’ favourite track out of the 17. It’s the album single, smartly positioned as track no. two on the record. Its name? What It Is. The R&B cut is a masterclass in arrangement, with every blank space filled by instrument licks, or vocal melodies. Tame Impala Currents would be proud. The backing vocals are nothing short of angelic, and the staccato chorus syncopation really gives the rhythm a shot of adrenaline. Expect to head bop to the dirty slap bass and air guitar to the rapid-fire electric solo at the end.
The next spotlighted tune is Foreign Things; featuring an irresistible two-chord synth sway and clever lyricism to boot. “Gotta feed your creatures when you in the dark. So deep get your Uber lost”. Foreign Things is a celebratory tune in which the artist recognises her talent, dismisses her haters, and parties. Sounds like a good concoction to me. Be sure to pay attention to the tasteful palm-muted electric guitar and the bass lines that seem to defy musical theory, yet still sound incredible.
My final highlight is the second last track, Bliss. Bliss tells a story of self-confidence, loving others and loving yourself. She wrote the song alongside other writers at a songwriting camp. According to the artist, her team bonded quickly and were having a ball late into the night. No wonder the track is so naturally joyous. It’s nothing short of euphoric, and don’t even get me started on the off-beat rhythm. For reference, the infectious groove is similar to John Mayer’s Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You. Bliss is as non-conformist as a mullet and as optimistic as Bob Ross. If you’re looking for a pick me up, perhaps following a breakup, Bliss will put your feet firmly back on the ground and put your head in the clouds.
Overall, I believe this record will skyrocket Mark to the top of the R&B radar. I can’t wait to hear where she goes from here.
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