EP Review | Berlin is Everything Good About Æ Mak
When you’re reviewing a three-track mixtape, you would think you’d struggle for things to say. After all, writing about 13 track albums puts a fierce strain on my long-suffering wordcount (although a lot of that comes from writing irreverent, throwaway introductions. Lucky there’s none of that in this review.). That’s just not the case when we’re talking about Berlin, the bountiful three-track mixtape from art-pop aficionado Æ MAK aka Aoife McCann, who’s proven herself a driving force in what’s cool in Irish music. You could rant on about Berlin until the cows come home – you could probably keep just talking until they leave again.
Every song from this gem contains its own little world to explore, whether we’re chatting about the stuck-in-your-head-for-a-week chorus hooks or the bouncy, Nintendo 64-esque synths that poke at your brain’s endorphin centre. The warmth and love poured into each track is apparent, so full of personality and joy that you can’t help but smile.
This all comes together through a hearty blend of Æ MAK’s kitsch, polished songwriting style and the aid of a few fantastic producers, Kojaque, ATRIP and David Noonan, who together weave a warm blanket of anthemic tunes and heartfelt lyrics.
‘Shimmer Boy’ leads the trio with a dreamy kind of confidence – an anthemic burst of joy akin to Wolf Alice’s ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’ or Lorde’s ‘Supercut’. There’s deep layers of production pumping energy into the track, like cleverly modulated harmonica samples, thumping sub-basses and unorthodox but ingenious use of techno-styled drum patterns. There’s such a tenderness to the lyrics here – a collection of soft, non-sequitur texts between McCann and the mysterious ‘Shimmer Boy’.
Long-time Æ MAK fans will likely recognize this as being the trait which sets McCann apart from her contemporaries – there’s a fresh kind of euphoria to the lyrics in an Æ MAK song that you can hear throughout her entire discography. Older songs, such as ‘i dance in the kitchen’, ‘Glow’ and even going back as far as ‘I Can Feel It In My Bones’ never use a cliche phrase, never say anything cynical – there’s a unique love and craft to Æ MAK’s lyricism that’s always such a pleasure to hear.
Following up is ‘Baked Cheesecake’, my personal favourite off the tape. There’s warm synth mallets for an intro, giving the same warm fuzzies as, say, the Animal Crossing soundtrack. The warm fuzzies continue with a really lovely look at friendship in a brand new city, giving the mixtape’s title Berlin. While the verses are a lot of fun, things really take off when the chorus kicks in – such a perfectly crafted singalong, the kind of tune that sticks with you for weeks afterwards.
‘Bluer’ sees us out, a much darker and less boppy tune that bookends Berlin. Again, a real atmospheric masterwork, filled with dark ambience and top-of-the-range production values. There are delicious details here, the pulsing bass synths and choir-like backing vocals add an energy and mood that might remind you of, say, Bombay Bicycle Club without the guitars.
All in all, it’s a taster platter of everything that’s good about Æ MAK – unabashed joy, kitsch aesthetics, creative, polished production & bop-after-bop. Such a short EP leaves you wanting more, but with her live shows already touring, it won’t be long until you can whet your Æ MAK appetite yet again.