In the opening lines of the song “California Clay” on her new album Push, Mariana Bell sings the lines “I was born the year of the dog, that’s all you need to know / You will find me loyal to a fault as I come and go”. As overwrought as her lyrics can be, Bell’s darkly intriguing vocals conceal just enough to make the ride interesting, even when she’s singing “Don’t need a leash, I’ll stay easily”. At times on Push, Bell finds herself mired in her own too-peculiar songwriting style. It’s unfortunate, because her vocal abilities are comparable to those of someone like Fiona Apple.
The Los Angeles-based singer is billed as indie folk-pop, and while this tag largely encapsulates her sound, many songs on Push bleed into a more pop-country aesthetic. With help from co-writer Mike Meadows (Taylor Swift), Bell pulls off the latter style with ease on “Good Enough”, the catchiest track on the album. Bell also shines on the title track and album opener when she sings, “I know I say what I say to see if you will walk away”.
There’s no shortage of indie singer-songwriters in the world of music, which means that you need to pull off something rather spectacular for the audience at large to take notice. Bell isn’t quite there yet, as Push is definitely a mixed bag, featuring fantastic songs alongside easily forgettable ones. Fortunately, her talent shines through just enough when she’s at her best that it’s not hard to imagine a bright future on the horizon.