Just too damn charming to quibble about anything that might, here, be so quibbled. Is Meg Mac aiming to split the difference between Adele and Amy Winehouse? Could be. And why not? There’s a real musical sweet spot to be found there, and here, in this knowing piece of first-rate retro-soul. What lights this on fire to me is the song’s stompy, asymmetrically-placed piano riff, which plunks itself down between beats, creating a powerful stutter, both tripping the song up and launching it further at the same time. Songs that can make you clap and move while fiddling with time signatures are generally songs to be admired.
From its old-school intro—not instrumental vamping, but a slow, otherwise unused vocal melody—“Known Better” oozes both ardor and aptitude. There are knowing chord changes (not just the dramatic one at 0:39 but the subtler set-up, after the words “back someday” at 0:34), there are skillful production effects, such as the shot of processed vocals at 0:50, and most of all there are the songwriting chops that put this all together so spiffily, with that piano riff ever at the center of things. For a short piece of pop, the song is not satisfied standing still. The second iteration of the verse uses a somewhat different melody, and there seem to be not one but two different bridges, including that one in the middle with the hand-claps and an ear-catching switch to 6/4 time. The use of a refrain line instead of a full-fledged chorus helps keep things moving, and never underestimate the effectiveness of expertly placed “ah-ah-ah”s.
All through, Mac (neé McInerney) sings with panache, perhaps a bit thinly, but I hear someone who is still finding her voice. She’s 22, from Melbourne, and this appears to be her first release of any kind. MP3 via TripleJ, the Australian music site.
photo credit: Tanaya Harper