Cheyenne Marie Mize may be unkown to a lot of you, but she is quickly making a name for herself in the music world. Over the past few years she’s worked with the brilliant (to some) Will Oldham and released her own solo EP, Before Lately, in 2010. Her style has evolved a bit over the years. She plays violin and guitar and seems to be leaning more toward the latter on her newest EP, We Don’t Need. Having had the opportunity to meet Mize when she was in town last week for a show at Schubas, I can tell you that she takes her music very seriously. That said, she seems to enjoy playing immensely, so I would guess she’s going to have a nice long career.
As far as We Don’t Need goes, I do have a few thoughts. The whole thing is six tracks, so let’s break it down. First of all, when I initially ran through the EP, I was going in the wrong order. For whatever reason when I imported the tracks to iTunes, it got messed up. I was kicking things off with “Call Me Beautiful” when I should have started with “Wishing Well.” The flow works a lot better if you play the songs in the correct order.
“Wishing Well” is a bright, shiny piece of pop that combines some jazz and blues with some traditional folk tropes. While the vocals sound great on this one, the real star is the percussion. The sound creates a bit of a visual for the listener, like you’re walking down Bourbon Street listening to street musicians banging on anything they can find. It’s the most carefree and fun song on the record, so a good way to kick things off.
“Call Me Beautiful” takes the EP in a dark direction pretty quickly. It’s an interesting piece with lots of sonic variations going on in the background. While this is my least favorite of the six tracks, I certainly wouldn’t tell anyone to skip it. The song is deliberately paced, with a chiming bell tolling in the mix to create an ominous feeling. Lyrically this song, more than the others here, cuts deep:
You call me beautiful, but you must have seen the light
in someone else’s eyes, it wasn’t me
Don’t call me beautiful, you don’t know
how ugly I can be
The tone switches back in an instant with the more upbeat “Going Under.” This one is reminiscent of some songs that were popular a couple years ago with UK singers like Amy Winehouse or Duffy. My favorite vocal performance of the record is probably on this song. There’s a very bluesy feel that fits Mize’s voice perfectly. This song gives me the same thoughts I had the first time I heard Tidal all the way through: Jazz and blues is right up her alley, just sing that. Of course, neither Cheyenne nor Fiona would be interested in sticking to one genre.
“Keep It” for some reason reminds me of a song on Rock Band that I would never listen to, but love to play, “I Think I’m Paranoid” by Garbage. When I plugged that song into Pandora, it came up with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Radiohead, which I also hear in “Keep It.” Mize’s song is far better than anything Garbage ever put out (in my opinion), but it does share some sonic themes. It sounds like it could’ve been written in the late 90’s, while eschewing many of the cliches that come along with songs from that period. There is a great effect used with layering vocals that builds and fades in the middle of the song that creates a fullnes to the sound. I don’t have the producers name here in front of me (or maybe it was self-produced), but that idea worked out incredibly well.
There’s another shift in tone leading into “It Lingers,” which turns into a kind of surf-pop/shoegaze hybrid. It’s a bit like Mazzy Star (which I’m almost ready to admit publicly I like) in that it evokes a dreamlike response. The guitar really comes out to the front on this one, and it’s played to perfection. The dynamics change quite a bit throughout the song, which makes it seem quite a bit longer than it really is, highlighting that dreamlike aspect.
“It Lingers” and “Back Around” are the only two songs on this EP that really tie into one another, so it makes sense that they should finish it out. The final track is an instrumental that blends a lot of things together very well. There’s great bass lines, drum action, and strong guitar work, but I think the vocal loop is what really ties it together and makes it stand out. It’s sometimes very difficult to make a instrumental song interesting (unless you’re Jack Rose), but I think Mize and company nailed it on this one.
There’s a lot of good on this EP, and not enough bad to mention. The vocals are quite good, and the production work is lush and crystal clear. These 6 songs may not have been written with the idea that they would all end up on the same recording, but they do work as a whole as well as individually. My personal preference is for the more upbeat songs like “Wishing Well” and “Going Under,” but I can’t find any complaints with the more intimate, darker material.
Mize, a Louisville native, has a couple more shows lined up in Indiana and Ohio before heading down to Austin for SXSW. The EP, We Don’t Need, is available now. You can stream it, plus all of her previous work on her bandcamp page.