Sylvie & Mandy - 'Broken Year'
Review by Aaron Cloutier Sylvie & Mandy “Broken Year”
Reviewed by Aaron Cloutier
The cozy sounds of mandolin, acoustic guitar, and lap steel invite listeners in to sit down by the fire as they spin a melancholy progression setting the tone for the aptly titled “Broken Year”. A kindhearted retrospective on 2020 by alternative folk duo Sylvie & Mandy.
Written by Sylvie Abate and co-written by Mandy Sullivan, “Broken Year” touches on topics of 2nd chances that don’t pan out, dealing with feelings of failure and ultimately, learning to go easy on yourself, and remember that it’s just another step in the learning process.
I personally think this is best described in the lyrics…
“We walked this valley before
found comfort on familiar shore Didn't I put our love first?
Didn't I quench your thirst
Let the judges be fair
this was a broken year
Let the judges be kind
looking back on our sweet time.”
Though the lyrics were written by Abate, it is Mandy Sullivan who handles the lead vocal duties which showcases a sincerity and quiet confidence in her approach. There’s a gentle quality to Sullivan’s delivery not to mention a high level of ability without it ever sounding grandiose or flashy. To me, the tone itself is the sound of someone who is comfortable in their own skin with a well earned command of their vocal instrument.
The sonic landscapes as a result of all vocal and instrumental elements involved create a rustic type of setting in my mind. As I listen, I keep seeing pictures of a campfire or sitting a front porch at night in the summertime.
The blend of mandolin ( played by multi-instrumentalist Bruce Hoffman ) bass ( courtesy of session ace Sean Hurley ), and guitars ( by Noah Needleman ) are very textural and intimate. The backing vocals contributed in part by session vocalist Julie Broschard are expertly delivered and blend together with Sullivan’s voice to weave lavish and warm harmonies that make for commanding hooks.
Listening back, it took me a minute to realize that there is no drummer to be found but the fact that there’s a lack of percussion actually helps to draw attention towards the lush arrangements and rich storytelling. If drums were included in fact, it may very well have been a disservice to the piece.
In short, “Broken” year is a gentle reminder for everyone to not lose one’s sense of compassion in the wake of all the chaos of last year. Especially if that means directing that compassion inward for starters.
About Sylvie & Mandy Sylvie & Mandy write, record, perform and produce original, alternative folk music. Their music explores the traditions of folk and Americana mixed with a touch of classical. Both women hold music degress in classical guitar performance. Sylvie is a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, and Mandy is a graduate of the Hartt School of Music.
Sylvie is a lyricist and songwriter who plays guitar and bass. Mandy is a singer-songwriter, guitarist, mandolinist, pianist and ukulele player. In 2019, Sylvie & Mandy received a "Gold Medal Award" from the Global Music Awards for "Best Songwriter & Lyrics" and "Best "Vocals" for their song "Roots Run Deep."
Based in Connecticut and Texas, Sylvie & Mandy have been writing and performing together for many years. They have played many prestigious folk venues like Friday Night Folk (New London), The Buttonwood Performing Arts Center (Middletown), the Mystic Arts Center, and the Breadbox Folk Series (Willimantic). The two women were part of the popular Connecticut folk group, The Beekeepers, and they performed with the Celtic Trio, Celticity. Mandy teaches guitar and piano at Mandy's Music Lessons in Milford, CT and Sylvie teachers guitar online with Guitar on Demand.
For more information, please visit Sylvie & Mandy's website.