It’s probably not a coincidence that Deserter sounds a bit haunted; there’s quite the “coincidence” at work on Mansion’s least EP. The story goes that lead songwriter Christopher Browder had a bunch of guitar-based songs ready to go until a synthesizer fell on his laptop and destroyed the hard drive (spooky!). He figured that was a sign to write the group’s most synth-heavy songs to date, as it probably wasn’t worth the thousands of dollars to attempt to recover the old demos. Thank whatever entity (probably gravity) helped that synthesizer fall on Browder’s old work, as Deserter is a fantastic collection of synth rock and a bold new direction for Mansions.
The band have always been compared to Brand New, as their brand of indie punk has relied on Browder’s emotive vocals, poignant lyrics, and a solid addiction to distorted riffs. Those three ingredients are on masterful display here, but the addition of new wave synths, a psych rock feel, and a bit more lyrical malevolence all give these tunes a nice bit of grit and edge. To be sure, these are consistently engaging and hooky songs, but the haunted feel helps transform Deserter into a whole new beast. Plus, this is easily the band’s most varied collection to date, brought together by Browder’s ethereal vocals and a nice mix of synth ambiance and guitar riffs.
Ultimately, let’s chalk up Deserter as a gleefully happy accident. Mansions have never sounded this alive (undead?) and engaged, and this impressive collection of songs is a testament to the power of perseverance in the wake of gravitational mishaps.