Written By: Hayley Mierzwa
If you’ve never heard of Totalbell Band (I know I hadn’t), think rockabilly – an interesting combination of classic rock and roll with a country sound mixed in and an occasional nod to other styles. My first exposure to the Danish-American group, through their new album “Maggie Malaise,” was an unexpectedly pleasant sonic experience. A trip to their website, which is entirely in Danish, reveals that the group is also interested in the visual arts, prominently featuring comics and paintings on the homepage.
Every track on this record has some kind of country or bluesy twang to it. There are some more rock-sounding tracks with a deeper male vocal, like “Nantucket Blues” and “Cadillac Coupe DeVille.” There are also a few songs featuring female vocals ,such as “Zulu to Dixieland” and “East El Paso.” Regardless of the song, you will almost always here a mix of male and female voices harmonizing in the well-composed choruses.
The title track, “Maggie Malaise,” invokes anything but malaise (discomfort from an unidentifiable source). With a dancey keys/synth part, this was a particular favorite from the album. Other favorites included “Pasty Pearl,” “Born About 10,000 Years Ago,” and “Last Night,” the first of these being another “dancey” track, the second being an exciting and lyrically playful opener, and the last being an emotional reflection (with lyrics: “No matter how I try I always dream of you”). Another interesting listen is “Corto Danés” – the Spanish title literally translating to “Danish Short” and the lyrics being sung entirely in Spanish, which was a surprise from a group that clearly already has mastery of English and Danish.
Some other unique tracks include “Blue Manchu,” a swingy, bluesy slow jam, “Hung My Little Head and Cried,” a rock-y track with an interesting saloon-style piano solo, and “Senegal River,” which features some long tones on either accordion or melodica layered over a strange, deep drone, and topped off with some banjo. A particularly weird track is “Say It!” The entire song details the storyline of the vocalist asking a girl to “say it,” but she never does, and you will never find out what “it” is.
Overall this record is great to listen to musically. It left something to be desired lyrically, as it mostly detailed odd little stories and did not feature a lot of variance throughout each track, but that does seem to follow with a country music feel – the emotion is in the story, you just have to listen closely enough.