Mesa Jane – This is How the Meek Riot
The third release from Philadelphia based songwriter Melissa Olivieri, aka Mesa Jane, entitled This Is How the Meek Riot should catapult should serve notice that this is a major talent on the rise. Olivieri has realized her musical vision and there isn’t a second of filler present on the album’s four tracks. The EP presents different sides of Mesa Jane’s musical vision rather than settling for some placeholder release and, as a result, plays like a major work in a deceptively small package. The electronica at work in her songs might lead some to believe this is strictly entertainment for its own sake – they would be wrong. Instead, Mesa Jane presents entertaining musical soundscapes distinguished by her lyrical content and the obvious technique and skill she possesses as a singer. She has range and emotiveness to spare, but her tastefulness as a singer prevents her from ever overplaying the dramatic potential of her material.
Few songs make this more apparent than the opener. “It’s Still Free to Laugh” has a remarkably deep and mature point of view for songs of this ilk and Mesa Jane conveys the song’s message thoughtfully and with immense musicality. The electronica, unlike it so often does in the hands of other artists, never sounds frozen and inert. Instead, it gives her a lively base from which she can sing and complements her voice quite well. The EP’s second song “Everybody Knows” is a distinctly darker affair where Mesa Jane embraces some good old fashioned spleen venting, but it’s all handled quite artistically. The songwriting structure does an exceptional job of contrasting different sonic dynamics without a relatively brief duration and generates tremendous drama. Mesa Jane, likewise, shows can embody many different emotions in the course of one song and that the electronica backing imposes no restrictions on her musicality.
“Waking Up to the Sound of a Machine”, initially, takes a much more traditional approach than the earlier songs, but Mesa Jane’s interest in evocative and atmospheric soundscapes returns. There is nothing arbitrary here. Every move she makes in these electronica backing tracks have a reason and contribute something to the song. Nowhere is this more obvious than on the EP’s final song, “Honesty”. This is probably her densest and most complex electronic track on the album, yet there’s an obvious musicality at work from the first second until the end and Mesa Jane does a fantastic job of incorporating her voice with the backing. The lyrical content, arguably, reaches its zenith on this final song and the music complements well once again.
This Is How The Meek Riot, in a just world, would catapult Mesa Jane into the first rank of her genre. It’s that good. This isn’t an artist reliant on gimmickry or pandering to her audience – instead, she follows her own muse in such a compelling fashion that listeners cannot help but follow her wherever she moves. This EP is a solid effort from first song to last. 9 out of 10 stars.