New York singer-songwriter Charles Mansfield cites a wide range of big-name influences and claims the results come out somewhere between George Harrison, Neil Young and PJ Harvey. Our panel set out to see if they agree.
Tom White: Frank Sinatra tried suicide in a hotel elevator. That’s got your attention. Got mine too. The startling revelation comes from All The Way, the title track from New York resident Charles Mansfield’s self-released EP. The songs generally follow a similar template, with Mansfield’s storytelling lyrics to the fore over gently picked guitar. The acknowledged influence of Neil Young – or at least his gentler acoustic material – and Frank Black is apparent, making for an enticingly dark yet accessible sound and lyrics which warrant repeated explorations.
Liane Escorza: In the attempt of avoiding being a pedantic psychoanalyst, I must declare that I want to believe that life is like a roller coaster, with its ups and downs, its climatic moments and its splashes of despair in-between. That is what makes it beautiful and interesting. Though this doesn’t seem to be the case for Charles Mansfield, a singer-songwriter from New York. His recently released EP is a proof that some people have, and pretty much seem to want to have, a miserable life. This is at
least what I gather from his lyrics. Charles wants to romp in the muddy fields of discontent, gloom and disappointment. Each of the four tracks in this EP exudes tiredness, slurred vision and doom. Even if you take the song Performing with its added background harmonies and more uplifting prospects when yelping ‘I’m searching for love, I’m searching for kindness’, hope only lasts four bars on the stave and is followed by ‘I’m trying to ignore you’. You would think that Charles will move you to the brink vocally, yet this is clearly a ripped piece of diary sung to himself and no-one else, on a shrieking Placebo-type voice as if played in 45rpm. It is probably best then to leave him to it for a while and move to greener pastures.
Ian Parker: Charles Mansfield’s earlier recordings were undeniably sharp. His distinct, almost nasal voices echoes Wayne Coyne, and backed with a ragged, rough guitar on tracks like Tattoo, it didn’t make for comfortable listening. But for his All The Way EP, he has returned with a fuller sound, with drums and piano joining the guitar and strings. Add it all together and Mansfield comes out sounding like an expanded version of the Jayhawks, albeit with a far darker mood. Heck, he’s singing about things like Frank Sinatra trying to commit suicide in an elevator – it’s going to be dark. It’s still not cosy to listen to, but its getting easier to let yourself in.