Ya know, Christopher Browder isn’t so different from you and me. Based on his previous work, I’d bet that we’ve felt the same as him at point or another in our lives, whether it be the same fears, thoughts, or aspirations. We’re all heavily flawed, and Browder isn’t afraid to share that. And that’s what makes Mansions’ second full length album, Dig Up The Dead, so instantly relatable. Throughout the ten tracks, Browder spins together intricate tales of loneliness, heartbreak, and doubt backed by layers of fuzzy, distorted guitars.
Contrary to the somber themes, Dig Up The Dead is a raucous and nostalgic rock and roll album, harkening back to that ’90s emo/alternative sound. The title track opens the album in exactly that manner, as the track slowly builds up into something more aggressive, with the strongest instrument being Browder’s vocals. He doesn’t enter the upper register often, but when he does (like on the dizzying “Wormhole”), he delivers excellent results. His vocals also offer a youthful frailty that will resonate with listeners, especially on stirring closing track, “Yer Voice.”
Browder also shows that he is more than just a songwriter, but also an excellent guitar player, with “Blackest Sky” and “Not My Blood” serving as auditory proof. The lo-fi grunge of “Call Me When It’s Over” is striking, while the piercing “City Don’t Care” features the album’s catchiest chorus. While these are great examples of Browder turning up his amp, it’s the emotionally stripped-down tracks that hit the hardest and unveil a layer of depth unheard in previous efforts. The brooding yet cathartic “Close That Door” is a fuzzed-out jam focused on a love turned sour, while the haunting “Seven Years” is the pinnacle of the album. Browder has never been more vulnerable, as he faintly states, “If I don’t believe in the afterlife does that mean I can’t go? Will it be me and me and me alone?” It’s a slab of raw emotion rarely heard in this scene, and Browder executes it to perfection.
With “Dig Up The Dead,” we get an album that is beautifully desolate. Browder isn’t as angry as he was on 2009’s New Best Friends, but he isn’t any happier here. Still, despite all the depressing topics present on the album, Browder still sprinkles in a little positivity on the acoustic number, “Yer Voice” (“The one thing that you need is the dreams back in your sleep where they belong. I’m where I belong. You’ll see this means everything to me.”). Overall, “Dig Up The Dead” is a refreshingly bold album in a scene that’s grown stagnant. Mansions has an engaging energy that few acts possess, as Christopher Browder has emerged as one of the premier songwriters within the genre, along the likes of Jesse Lacey, Kevin Devine, and Matt Pryor. “Dig Up The Dead” has an unshakable aura that will carve out a place on your ‘Best Of’ list.