Eleni Mandell – Dark Lights Up (Rating 4 out of 5)

eleniMusic, like sex, when done right should take your mind, body, and soul into some sort of mystic place of pure contentment and peace. Dark Lights Up, the latest record from Eleni Mandell, delivers all of that and more.

With a wonderous vibe that channels the Folk sensibilities of Joni Mitchell, the 60’s soul of Dusty Springfield, and the Sultry Cocktail-Noir of Julie London and Eartha Kitt, and mixes it in a new millennium martini of smoothness with an aura of Jenny Lewis and Neko Case.  This one will take you on a really sweet non drug induced high with no hangover.

The Opener “I’m Old Fashioned” has a distinct late in the evening ambiance to it and name checks the way things were back in the day, and somehow makes things sound like things were kind of cool instead of coming across like a “things were better when I was a kid” lecture from your grandmother. Not sure how Mandell makes writing hand-made letters, actually going to a bank, or using a percolator to make coffee sound enticing, but she does. All sins are forgiven though, since her drink of choice is an Old Fashion, of course.

“China Garden Buffet” turns the mundane into the mystical with a last drink of the evening breeziness that would make Julie London blush, not that you can picture either of them ever going to a Chinese Buffet. All mood inspiring piano and upright bass, “I suppose it was time, t’was my practical mind.  So, I got up to go and you offered a hand, I just couldn’t say no with the stars in sky, snowy streets late at night standing there you kissed me, you kissed me, you kissed me you kissed me you kissed me.”  What happens next can be left to your imagination, let’s just say winter coats proved to be no obstacle. This song could have been the picture on a Frank Sinatra cover.

The song “If You Wanna Get Kissed” is a Country Swing tinged ode to the modern problem many have in these romantic times trying to figure out how to get kissed. The answer as Eleni tells us so eloquently is to get dressed up and get drunk. “Baby Don’t Call” sounds as if it could have quite easily been included on a Little Willie’s (Norah Jones side Country project) project or a She and Him Record. It is cool in a Les Paul and Mary Ford sort of way.

This is very much a wine, not whiskey sort of record.



– Walt Falconer –