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CD Reviews - Mandi Perkins
Mandi Perkins: Alice In No Man's Land
September 2008
By: Matt Boltz
album cover of Mandi Perkins' Alice in No Man's Land

Mandi Perkins' major label debut, Alice In No Man's Land, is a strong and consistent collection of songs that should quickly put her on the national music map. Alice In No Man's Land is the culmination of several years of hard work from Perkins, a Toronto native now living in Los Angeles who pursued her music career while attending law school. Perkins completed a 12-song independent digital release, bleeding the line. . ., in 2007 and buoyed by her existing songs, a huge and devoted MySpace following, having her music featured on several popular MTV shows, and her charisma, Perkins was subsequently signed to Sony BMG's Victor Records.

Each of the album's 13 songs is unique, yet they share many common elements including striking intensity, well-crafted lyrics, vocal deliveries that emphasizes lyrical meanings, and a vague familiarity that likely comes from the way Perkins combines a variety of influences and musical elements into her own style. The music is very good; it often rocks, but isn't too heavy or overwhelming and does a great job of enhancing the tone of each song while giving many of the tunes an edgy sound appropriate for Perkins' lyrics.

It's difficult to pick a track or two that stand out from the rest -- the album is strong as a whole, and each track is a unique story with its own distinct qualities. The title track, for example, is a slower song featuring piano and backing vocals from Gabriel Mann, while Why Pretend is a strong opener with great dynamics, Why (You Confuse Me) features a rocking chorus and an especially strong lyrical delivery, I Fall Down and Broken Window are among the poppier songs on the album, Crawl features a groovy bass line, So I Wait blends in some strings, and Condemned's impassioned lyrics warn a potential suitor: I'm condemned/An empty building/ . . . /I have no feelings/I don't deserve you/Stay away/I'll only hurt you. The song order works well and helps bring songs of different tones and tempos together as a cohesive unit. What stands out the most on the album is Perkins' unique voice - she has the ability to sound almost like a different singer within the same song by sounding cleansed, angry, hurt, condescending, and impassioned almost all at once -- and the way she uses dynamics and emotion to unapologetically hammer her lyrical content home.

Perkins' attention to lyrical content is another shining point on the album. Perkins is extremely intelligent, having passed the California State Bar, and perhaps fitting for a trained lawyer, her lyrics convey an excellent ability to analyze situations and surroundings and translate her perceptions and feelings into narrative lyrics that mesh with the music to form well-told stories.

Mandi Perkins' new album, Alice In No Man's Land, is a strong major label debut that draws upon her musical experience and takes it to a new level while establishing her as a great vocalist, talented songwriter, and excellent lyricist. While many of the songs have a dark tone, the album nicely straddles both sides of the line between catchy and edgy, with choruses that can easily get stuck in a listener's head. It's refreshing to hear such a strong and well-rounded major label debut, and based on the talent and potential shown on Alice In No Man's Land we should be hearing plenty more from Mandi Perkins in the future.