Michael Malarkey is best known for playing Enzo on the recently ended long-running series The Vampire Diaries. He debuted in the show’s fifth season as a recurring character and after proving to be a hit with fans, he became a series regular for the final three seasons. Now that the show has completed its run Malarkey has returned to music, which is his first passion. Having released two EPs in 2015, Malarkey has finally put out his debut album Mongrels.
Mongrels showcases Malarkey’s talent as singer, a songwriter and a musician. Sonically the album sits mostly in the folk genre with Malarkey’s lyrics telling deeply personal stories. He started putting music to poems when he started making music and that poetic feel is still evident in his lyrics. Mongrels opens with the brooding My History Will Be the Death of Me, a song built around a catchy acoustic guitar-riff. Malarkey’s vocal is quite raspy recalling singer-songwriters such as Bob Dylan and Tom Petty.
The vibe across Mongrels is best described as moody. The tone of the album is fairly dark with the lightest moment coming on the hopeful optimism of I Just Want You. That track showcases a warmer side to Malarkey’s lyrics and vocals. The 12 songs included here are obviously a form of therapy for Malarkey as he lays his soul bare and his struggles out there for all to see. Time’s Still Standing Still finds Malarkey describing himself as ‘shit out of luck’ as he admits to being stuck on a woman.
Elsewhere on the record title track Mongrels is a wordy near 5-minute track where Malarkey explores his demons, the atmospheric Scars draws inspiration from the wonderful Nick Cave, and Strangers Dancing is a dreamy moment that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Twin Peaks soundtrack. The standout moment on the album is Hush Awhile, which is actually one of the more commercial sounding tracks. Malarkey shows off a quivering baritone vibrato that is really pleasant on the ears.
What is impressive about the album is that the production doesn’t overwhelm it so even those that want to roll their eyes at the thought of another actor turning to music, they’ll have a difficult time doing that with Mongrels. The album feels authentic and Malarkey’s voice is free from studio wizardry allowing his talent to shine.
Inevitably Malarkey will have to endure the groans and moans of those people who believe actors should stay well away from music. He acquits himself well on Mongrels and he feels authentic without pretention. Malarkey is clearly a talented artist and this album is a little gem. Look past his The Vampire Diaries past and you’ll likely be very surprised at what you find here.
Track listing: 1. My History Will Be the Death of Me 2. Girl in the Moon 3. Time’s Still Standing Still 4. Uncomfortably Numb 5. I Just Want You 6. Hush Awhile 7. Mongrels 8. Dog Dream 9. Scars 10. Love Will Kill Us All Someday 11. Strangers Dancing 12. To Be a Man Record Label: Cap on Cat Records Release Date: 8th September 2017