Mark Lesseraux – Low Cool

Mark Lesseraux
Low Cool

One of the things I really dug about New York band The Citizens and its album Post Cro-Magnon Drift was singer Mark Lesseraux’s voice. This guy has a mean set of pipes and, quite plainly, he can fucking sing! I’ve stated many times before that a great – or at least unique – singing voice can make or break an album for me. I enjoy singing along, and it’s a good litmus test for me when an album has tunes that strike me enough that I want to sing along. Mark Lesseraux’s Low Cool passes this test with flying colors.

The album seems like a labor of love as Low Cool took two years to complete and is comprised of sixteen “location” recordings. The tracks were originally recorded with a portable mini disc player at multiple locations in New York City and then taken to a studio for overdubs. Lesseraux wrote the music, sang, and played the instruments with some help from a few friends on select songs.

Like Lesseraux’s band, The Citizens, the songs here are of varying styles but without the full band Low Cool is a much more intimate affair. While some of the songs maintain a more lo-fi feel (“Everyone Here is Going to Die” or “The Non-Sequiturist”), the studio additions give many of the tracks (“Wunderkind” or “Precision”) a lusher feel. Both approaches work well for Mark Lesseraux – his lyrical style works well either way and he certainly knows how to adapt his voice to fit.

Opener “The Thing and the Other Thing”, although short at just over a minute and half, expertly features a wide range of vocal styles. Not only does Mark utilize near spoken word and a more “standard” singing voice, he also lets his voice soar to great heights for a few lines in the latter half of the tune. As he sings “There is a gap between the man I think I am and who I really am. I’m taking the liberty of speaking on behalf of both of us” you begin to develop a sense of the direction Low Cool is going. Then the 60’s pop of “Wunderkind” enters before “Caterpillar Wishes” knocks you off guard with its unexpected mid-song breakdown.

Knocking the listener off guard happens a lot on Low Cool. When you get a great rocking tune like “The Common Denominator” where everything just seems to magically align into a perfect song, you then get Lesseraux’s off-kilter lyrics like “The cocoa butter sonata in the background at Camp Grenada, make the natives dance and sing as the camera records everything.” The tasty minute and a half “The Breakdown” is another magic, rocking moment…one that leads me to the conclusion that as far as Mark Lesseraux’s music is concerned, I tend to really love his more upbeat songs. The final track is a cover of Madonna’s “Lucky Star” – a strange choice to be sure, but so well executed you can’t help but listen to this one over and over.

While this 16 song debut can be challenging at times, there is tons of great music here that and anyone should be able to find many tracks to love. From psychedelic low-fi pop to upbeat rock and funk, Low Cool is chock full of great material, including some of the more interesting lyrics I’ve heard in a long time. Lesseraux’s vocals will always be a highlight for me – whether with a full band or solo – and those who dig a great voice as much as I do shouldn’t overlook this one. Frankly, both Lesseraux and The Citizens should be much more widely known.