Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter May Rio, doing musical business as Meenk, wastes no time plunging you into her songs, eschewing introductions for cold starts. Rio in fact goes further here and pretty much eliminates instrumental breaks of all kinds, a move that subtly increases her song’s sense of purpose—it’s all swimming, no treading water. There is a four-second, beat-driven riff that recurs as an intrinsic part of the song (and acts as an exclamation point at the end), but other than that, all song moments here are singing moments. As both singer and songwriter, Rio is up to the task, moving us deftly forward with her frank, Liz-Phair-esque vocal style and the juxtaposition of “Up”‘s blunt, two-section verse with the lovely, flowing chorus.
An interesting side effect of the vocal dominance here is how minimal an impact the instruments consequently appear to have, offering accompaniment so unobtrusive you are hard-pressed even to notice the arrangement at all. And yet this is obviously not an a capella performance. I am tempted, in fact, to find something incredibly able and robust in this elusive a musical landscape. Listen around the edges and you’ll hear some very cool things, including a wavering keyboard that straddles the thin line between old school and new, and a jangly rhythm guitar that, Johnny Marr-like, ends up feeling more than a little like a lead.
“Up” is one of four concise songs on the debut Meenk release, entitled Scamu Scau, that was released digitally in June. You can listen to it and download it via Bandcamp.