New York City-born folk singer-songwriter Becca Mancari’s second album The Greatest Part is a nice, relaxing lazy-day listen on the surface. Its arrangements are simple, delicate and charming. Mancari’s delivery is emotive but calm; the production is stripped down, warm and faintly nostalgic; its tempo is ambulatory. However, this makes it all the more baffling that it sounds so unsettling.
A closer listen reveals the ideas and delivery aren’t so simple, but painfully direct. The atmosphere isn’t of a halcyon childhood but one of fraught repression. This is not a soundtrack to Sunday brunch but a tense and unflinching confrontation with a traumatic childhood growing up gay in a virulently unaccepting Christian Fundamentalist household.
To truly evoke her past, Mancari bravely strips almost all of her first album’s celebrated country indulgences; instead revolving her sound around the East Coast indie cool she grew up with. It’s a daring but authentic reworking that liberates her songwriting and lyricism.
Abrasive album opener ‘Hunter’ inculcates us with a pervasive paranoia where threatening letters from a former church-attender implore her to repent for her sexuality. The no-frills-but-soothing ‘First Time’ details her memory of “the first time my dad didn’t hug me back”. “Like this” embeds Mancari’s fragile determination to not lose hope within a detached Staten Island dream-pop that perversely rationalises that “bad things happen to good people all the time”.
However, this record isn’t a prison for Mancari but a blissful transcendence. With its progression, the album becomes perceptibly freer, with dreamy synth lines floating through ‘I’m Sorry’ and a trippy undercurrent flowing beneath ‘Knew’. Album closer ‘Forgiveness’ feels cathartic as Mancari makes peace with her family who were simply “children raising children” while repeating the mantra-like “then you leave it all behind” in the fuzzy forgiving reverb of the coda.
Loud And Quiet needs your help
The COVID-19 crisis has cut off our advertising revenue stream, which is how we’ve always funded how we promoted new independent artists.
Now we must ask for your help.
If you enjoy our articles, photography and podcasts, please consider becoming a subscribing member. It works out to just £1 per week, to receive our next 6 issues, our 15-year anniversary zine, access to our digital editions, the L&Q brass pin, exclusive playlists, the L&Q bookmark and loads of other extras.