McKeown's power is her fearless mashing of genres. You'd be hard-pressed to find a sound as fresh as her combination of bluesy vocals and groove on the album's opening cut "The Politician".
A World influence seeps in on "The Jailer" as folk soul vocals deliver razor-sharp lyrics, all pumped by a Bhangra-like rhythm. "That's Just What Happened" swings between a jazzy crawl and a Western saloon-worthy romp. The strangest twist may very well come on "Histories". The track has a crackling majesty that's interrupted by a twee electro-pop.
When you blitz genres together there are inevitably some things that just don't work. Horns on the title track are not enough to rescue it from the ridiculously earnest speak-sing. "Proof" suffers from a cheesy Adult Contemporary arrangement that obscures any value in the lyrics. The piano-based "Delight/Divide" sees McKeown coming across as a precious version of Regina Spektor.
One has no choice but to applaud McKweon's bravery and curiosity, and a few missteps aside, her rate of success with her experiments is remarkable.
Best tracks: "The Politician", "The Jailer"
Track listing for Manifestra:
- The Politician
- In God We Trust
- The Jailer
- Instant Classic
- That's Just What Happened
- Baghdad To the Bayou