The main focus in the band Scary Mansion is always on singer and songwriter Leah Hayes. Some may recognize her from vocal contributions to TV On The Radio’s “Snakes and Martyrs” off Return To Cookie Mountain. Her voice buckles from emotion and crackles with a painful sweetness that at times recalls Karen O’s more tender moments. But the music Scary Mansion play couldn’t be more unlike the tri-Yeahs, instead seeming to take direct influence from artists like Cat Power and Beth Orton. At first glance, titles like “Sorry We Took All Yr Money”, “Yer Mom”, and “New Hampshire” suggest a light-hearted, even humorous levity. Every Joke Is Half The Truth couldn’t be more the opposite. The songs are heavy-hearted and full of hurt.
Although Hayes will always get most of the attention, the rhythm section is second to none. Drummer Ben Shapiro can take his drums from a meditative sizzle to a thunderous and abrupt sonic intrusion. The bass of Brad Banks fits perfectly between the rhythms and the piano or guitar. This rhythm section knows when to step aside when Hayes needs more room to breathe.
I feel depression slip on as each track passes and I think both the listener and the artist need a hug if either is to emerge from this album with a shred of hope intact. Like many great artists though, this mediation on darker feelings begins to feel empowering and affirming on subsequent listens.