Mercies May

Crooked Valentine, Broken Heart
Strange and Distant

Mercies May raps like the kind of person who's used to people telling him he's handsome and, in response, feels compelled to retort that he sure feels ugly. The back cover of Crooked Valentine, Broken Heart sets an example: Yeah, there's a hot woman clawing at him from behind, but she looks to be a quarter-second away from ripping a chunk of flesh from the side of his neck. And the album works more or less the same way, deceptively innocuous (though often catchy) radio-ready rap&B steeped in melancholy and danger. Even with a voice as cocky and smooth as his, he spends less time wrapping it around a relaxed series of self-assured boasts than he does on wondering what went wrong and why things're still going haywire.

Aside from leadoff cut "Ride"—a breathless stream of come-ons outfitted with a vocoder hook—Mercies May tends to look at relationships in the rearview, and whether it's because of stressed-out hormonal reactions (the Latin-tinged "Broken Heart"), a girl's self-destructive image issues ("Portrait of Elise") or just plain inevitability ("love is gravity," he murmurs before the lonely trumpet coda of "End of the Affair"), they rarely fit into the romantic ideal. The pathos can get laid on pretty thick thanks to a sensitive-poet lyricism and a complete lack of self-consciousness, and that confessionalism only makes the moments where he's actually interested in boasting about his rap skills seem uncharacteristically egotistical. But there are worse things to be unconvincing at than arrogance.

MERCIES MAY performs a CD-release party with Out of Bounds and Psymantics FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 22, at the DINKYTOWNER; 612.362.0437

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