‘Four’ is the latest offering from the all girl, four-piece ensemble Mongoose (Plec Picks for us in 2015). Following on from their 2015 self-titled album, ‘Four’ is an entirely different project. Having only four tracks, each one is written by a different member of the group, giving this record a unique quality and personality like no other.
Old Friend, the opening track and first single released from the EP, begins gentle and melodic, with one vocal and a minimalistic piano accompaniment. The five-and-a-half-minute piece, composed by Cara Dunne, develops and flows beautifully. The girls layer their usual harmonies and a wide range of instruments on thick, leading to a busy, full sound of panic – “It’s not fair that you’re not scared like me!”
Counting Song is a stand out for it’s cleverly-constructed lyrics alone. The only song not lead by Molly O’Mahony’s vocals, it has a much gentler vocal direction. “Once (1) upon a time I spoke to (2) you/ of three (3) little words I meant for (4) you/ if I’ve (5) any sense this is the last time I count on you.” Muireann Ní Cheannabháin nimbly intertwines lyrics and numbers through the tune, proving that these girls are not merely a pop group but intelligent, talented artists who demonstrate pride and a natural flair in their work.
The third track, Bullseye, is an eruption of sound. Penned by the second Dunne sister, Ailbhe, it’s a jazzy rag-time calling that really exhibits the girls’ fiery, vibrant abilities. It’s a song that can easily transport you to a Gatsby party or expect to be heard in a smoke-filled jazz club in 1920s Paris. Both vocals and instrumentation offer a dynamic and energy that has not yet been heard on the record and is the perfect response to thoughts that may have pinned the EP as a mere quiet, timid, folk offering.
Finally, Joie De Vivre, the last quadruplet is O’Mahony’s contribution to the record. A gorgeous waltz, heavily backed by strings, this song toys with a classical notion. It is almost divided in two parts – the velvety smooth tinkling of the piano gives way to an explosion of sound as harmonies, leading vocals, brass, strings and percussion all battle each other in a passionate outcry pleading: “Please forgive me if I seem so ill at ease”. It’s a wonderfully crafted piece that commands every bit of your attention.
The contrast of the soft, air vocals of Ní Cheannabháin and the Dunne sisters against Molly O’Mahony’s deep, rich leading vocals lends itself to each piece on ‘Four’ and makes the folk-pop band sound unlike any other mix of musicians. They each bring their own flavour of jazz, folk and traditional Irish sounds to the EP. It’s a heavier, more-emotive and serious record than their debut album and it’s endearing to hear the four piece delve a little deeper this time.
‘Four’ is a wonderfully eclectic mix of songs – almost like a cheese board with four different offerings. Twee and dainty at times, there’s an underlying fire and desire caught in glimpses throughout this record and may Mongoose continue to explore that sound for a while to come yet.