Despite its title, Eleni Mandell’s eighth solo album, I Can See the Future, is the opposite of forward-looking, in a good way. A lovely trip into the past, it’s deliberately old-fashioned, lo-tech, and rooted in mid-century country and pop sounds. “Magic Summertime” has vintage R&B-style chord changes that could have soundtracked a slow dance at the prom in Grease, while Mandell’s sultry phrasing on songs like “Don’t Say No” offers film noir come-hither. On “Crooked Man,” she slyly (but sweetly) says of an old flame, “Everything he said was wrong/Or else he quoted Bob Dylan.” Mandell’s moderate success has never really led to fame, but you can imagine her hanging with fellow L.A. alterna-girl Jenny Lewis, dueting on a triumphant breakup song. And on “Never Have to Fall in Love Again,” Mandell channels the great Patsy Cline. Like Lewis and Cline, Mandell is at her best when she’s bittersweet, mixing her heartbreak with odes to freedom.
By Phoebe Magee
This review appears in the Aug/Sept 2012 issue with cover girl Tavi Gevinson. Subscribe now.
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