Written By: Ethan Griggs
My Music: ethangriggsmusic.virb.com
Many modern artists wallow in obscurity before finding their path to the big time, and other artists have visions that have the capacity of spreading like wildfire over the internet as nearly as soon as it’s uploaded to SoundCloud. When Amber Mark uploaded her first song “S P A C E” she became the latter, as the New York based singer quickly gained notoriety throughout the alt pop and alt R&B communities. With the release of her debut EP 3:33am, Mark shows that she can pair modern pop songwriting with the more worldly sounds that have been making their way onto various American radio stations.
The most memorable element of this disc is the singer’s crystal clear vocals. Mark’s alto murmurs both up front in the mix and behind beautiful landscapes of piano and subtle synthesizer. The single “Monsoon”, which features Mark’s sister Mia, is an anthemic tribute to their mother who passed away of illness in 2013. Accompanied by the sound of heavy falling rain, the song is one of the most visual pieces on the record, giving the listener a true sense of melancholy.
It’s not all slow and sad, though; 3:33am is also defiant and interdependent. The following song “Can You Hear Me?” plays out a conversation with the deceased mother – “I’m crying can you hear me mother?/I’m dying can you hear me mother?” The gospel-tinged number is absolutely the most upbeat track on the EP, despite the subject matter.
Through all the darkness, Mark is able to see the light at the end of the tunnel come the the album’s closing track “Way Back”. “May still be aching but I see the sun come up/Day’s overtaking and I feel I’ve overcome” yearns a smoothly and sensual Mark over a thumping piano progression. She explains the duality in a recent interview with NME: “I didn’t want it to be something that was really sad. You’re talking about a really devastating time in peoples’ lives. I thought it was important to have something that was uplifting, to make you feel better, to say: ‘It does get better, it does get easier.’ I do talk about hard times but I also try to bring out the light.”
There’s absolutely a range of high and low – positivity and negativity – on 3:33am, but what’s also there is the voice of an artist who is willing to take lemons and make lemonade. There’s a certain defiance in this person and the music she makes that tells us she’ll be around to learn and grow from the times in life that seem threatening.