Chicago-based band My Gold Mask was founded by guitarist Jack Armondo and singer Gretta Rochelle, the latter hailing from my own hometown of Baton Rouge, LA. The two of them released two EPs before adding drummer James Andrew to the line-up for their first full-length, Leave Me Midnight, and now the trio’s excellent new album, Anxious Utopia – streaming here – ups the ante with synths and bass (Mr. Kitty and Adam Wayne, respectively).
The band has developed a nice mix of electronic and rock music, incorporating elements of pop and dance music. The well-produced songs have strong dynamics with exciting choruses and arresting beats. Singer Rochelle, who mines her struggles with anxiety for the songs’ lyrics, often sounds like Santi White (Santigold), who in turn sounded a bit like Gwen Stefani back when she was in the punk band Stiffed. It follows then that sometimes Rochelle does too, perhaps most notably on the dark pop song “Dangerous”.
The opening track “Forgive Again” consists of pretty but ominous synths and a soaring, danceable chorus – a promising start for what’s to come. Although there’s plenty of good stuff in between, my other favorites are at the end of the album: “In Diamond White” and “Severed”. The former has a slight ’80s feel, with a pulsing verse and slinky chorus, while “Severed” is moody with uplifting synths and a melodic hook. There’s something visceral and satisfying about both songs, and I’d love to hear them live.
“Connect” also has a dark intro, with a bit of a post-punk feel, before it blossoms into a poppier chorus. Part of the group’s appeal is this smooth combination of genres; “Gone Gone Gone”, for instance, feels like a rock song with amplified beats, while “Battles” is more of a straight-ahead dance song. “Gone Gone Gone” also features some rapid-fire “heh heh, heh heh heh’s” that remind me of Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries, as well as smooth lead vocals from Armondo, alternating nicely with Rochelle on the verses.
The catchy but edgy “Insomnia” is another album highlight, along with the funky “Dissipate”, which has a paint-splashed video, but I think I prefer this unplugged version from SXSW in 2014. The band returns to SXSW this year, and will come out our way March 26th to play Complex L.A. in Glendale! Anxious Utopia is out Friday on Dallas, TX label, Moon Sounds Records.
Photo by Jason Creps