The latest EP release from Pennsylvania’s Pleb Mahogany Cecily Strong is an abbreviated two song collection taking its title from a Saturday Night Live performer. This alone indicates a degree of irreverence and individuality far removed from the typical concerns of pop artists and even an inattentive listen to these two tracks underlines that initial impression. Pleb Mahogany hasn’t proven to be a particularly prolific artist over the course of his brief short career but has made an impression nonetheless thanks to songwriting and live performances mixing genuine musical and melodic talents with comedic flair. The comedic side of Mahogany’s art is more understated within his songwriting than it is in live performance and possesses a sometimes mordant or dry satirical bite. The production for both tracks highlights his fundamental skills and frames the compositions in the best possible way.

BANDCAMP: https://pleb.bandcamp.com/album/cecily-strong

The title song begins the collection. It opens with electric piano before the arrangement reaches full pitch. It has an unusual sweep and Mahogany’s vocal phrasing has a breezy tone providing a sharp contrast. Mahogany has a far from traditional voice, but it possesses a warm inviting sound and charisma. His singing has a nasal quality, but enhances the song in immeasurable ways. You will need to be familiar with Saturday Night Live to appreciate the song’s full effect, but “Cecily Strong” still has plenty of value as a standalone title track thanks to Mahogany’s skill creating character. Pleb’s past work often embraces electeonic pop, but that isn’t the case with this track – it has a traditional slant only accentuated by some vocal effects applied during the cut.

He dispenses with electric piano in favor of its traditional counterpart during the EP’s second track “Guard”. This plays like a love song throughout much of the track, but there’s a lot going on here and Mahogany is patient about revealing his lyrical hand in full. His patience pays off well for listeners. “Guard” has live drumming well represented in the mix and it generates a consistent energy level throughout the performance. As fine as the title song is, many listeners will find “Guard” a finer track, certainly cutting deeper, and without a doubt much more personal sounding than the performative mood of the first song.

Despite only including two tracks, Pleb Mahogany’s Cecily Strong has surprising substance outstripping much lengthier releases. You cannot draw easy connections between Mahogany’s art and other musical performers; this is a songwriter burning bright as a constellation unto himself in the modern pop world. He subsumes influences go into his music and songwriting into his individual gifts so completely as it render reference points indistinguishable.

I-TUNES: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/pleb-mahogany/id1426516811

Pleb Mahogany’s Cecily Strong stands out in a crowded indie music scene and his willingness to forge his own artistic path forward pays off rewarding dividends for both the artist and his listeners. Mahogany doesn’t boast an extensive discography, but there’s no question this is his best release yet and shows continued growth over previous releases. It’s one of the more compelling releases you’ll hear in 2019.

Nicole Killian

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