For me—not very often. I’m a reviewer, I listen to a bunch of music, and as much as I put in my ears, a select handful of it ends up sticking. But, when it does—oh boy. Mercy Music is the latest to be thrown at the wall and the latest to stick. Their new album Until the End of Your World makes a case for them being a new and electric voice in the world of misery-melodies and gutter poetry.
There’s something at once urgent and reckless about the music—each and every one written with the finality and verve of a suicide note. It feels indispensable, like music made to last. Album opener “Song For” begins: “Am I too afraid to kill myself?” It’s a gunshot crooned, silky smooth and impossible to ignore, and it hangs heavy in the air until the needle lifts. Mercy Music live in the twilight between acts of self destruction and sugary pop and the final product sounds like an amalgam of earnest songwriting, big hooks, and moody melodic punk. It’s the juxtaposition between singer Brendan Scholz’s smooth voice and his dark lyricism that makes Mercy Music into its own beast, and the production backs the vibe. If there’s a moment that captures Mercy Music at its essence, it’s the first thing we hear: rumbling distortion, punctuated with a melody played by bright sounding bells.
When it comes to power trios, there’s a very real danger of writing an album of chord progressions with no real songs. But, throughout Until the End of Your World, it becomes clear that there are some great songwriting minds at work in Mercy Music, and each individual instrument works hard to not only carry us through the changes, but to emphasize rhythms, introduce counter-melodies and to build honest to goodness songs. The album wouldn’t be as good as it is if it wasn’t for these instrumental considerations.The drums deserve special mention, providing beats evocative of Phil Spector and 60s pop, while singer/guitarist Scholz shreds, palm-mutes, and riffs his way through anthem after anthem. These disparate elements—the pitch black lyrics, the aggressive fretwork, and sugary pop backbone—join together to form the core of Mercy Music’s sound.
It was, however, the lyrics that first jumped out and bit me. From the opening line, (which, in my mind, has already become iconic) to little lexical rattlesnakes on “Mark Your Wrists” (“You have a way with words and I’m too abrupt.”) and “Mr. Universe,” (“Are these the last words I’ll ever write? And is it too late to suck you in tonight?”), the lyrics are constantly coiling, rattling, and ready—fangs dripping with venom. They ask plaintive, painful questions that bleed and in turn resonate, like calls from the void, desperate for even an echo.
Until The End of Your World is full of great songs, and beyond great, honest lyrics, musical cohesion, and the fact that this is a power trio in every sense of the phrase—it was the songs that kept me coming back. On my first listen, I toe-tapped to the beats as little lines crawled out of melodies and white-knuckled my attention. On the next listen, I started learning melodies, singing along. Soon, I had a shortlist of favorite tracks. Then, I got to see Mercy Music live with Spanish Love Songs and I heard them again for the first time: I witnessed their scrappy, electric energy in person and watched them breathe life into the songs I didn’t know yet. And now, however that all adds up, I have a new favorite. Eleven songs of anxiety, depression, and injured hope—eleven songs I’ll sing for the rest of my life.