Album review: "Fences"
Four musicians play on Fences' self-titled album, yet it isn't exactly the work of a band. Fences is the alias of Seattle troubadour Christopher Mansfield, whose music slips between folk and rock, with hints of country and, oddly, synth-pop. Mansfield's weary voice, finger-picked guitar and pained-love lyrics are always upfront, conjuring a '60s coffeehouse vibe. But Greg Garcia's drums gently goad many of the tunes, and Jonathon Warman's keyboards add a ghostly air.
"Fences" was co-produced by Sara Quin (of Tegan and . . .), who lends her voice to "Girls with Accents," the confession of a self-sabotaging lover: "Now's my chance to finally kiss you/But I got drunk and passed out." Such lines are characteristic of these laments, which are marinated in grief and regret. Whether singing about lost romance or missing persons, Mansfield is always looking out for ghosts.
Stylistically, the 10 songs don't vary much, yet the small shifts are carefully modulated. Although "Fences" has only one outright rocker, the singer injects urgency into folkie numbers such as "My Girl the Horse" with insistent refrains. Mansfield may not be in control of his emotions, but he shows considerably more mastery over his music.
- Mark Jenkins, Feb. 2011