Mackenzie Shivers has lived with music practically all of her life; she began playing piano when she was four and was a singer-songwriter by the age of five. Moving from her hometown of Tampa, Florida, to NYC, where she lends her musical skills and voice to a variety of venues and gigs, she also occasionally pursues opportunities in the world of acting. Her story has led her up to the release of her new album, Neverland.

Shivers has a voice that doesn’t escalate much above a whisper throughout the album. Vocals are kept simple, keeping harmonies to a minimum. The album is very piano-driven and the most intricate melodies are heard from the instrument giving the album vitality.

There is a song on this album that serves as the pinnacle of the entire thing: “Orphan Song” is distinct due to the rest of the tracklist because of its unique lyrics, layered harmonies, beautiful piano melodies, and a guitar lick or two. If the record had gone in this direction, I would’ve loved this album so much more. The touching “Below The Meadow” has exceptionally descriptive lyrics and beautiful imagery, enhancing the song’s positive message. Shivers’ piano skills are showcased in “Hymn,” a short, piano-only track. “Goodbye Marie” seems to have a strong cultural or folk influence; its solemn vocal, drone, and piano melody mix quietly ends Neverland.

The songs all described are the last four on the release, which can be interpreted a number of ways. I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt: It’s not about how you start, what counts is how strongly you end. Singer-songwriter doesn’t have to equate to boring. I’m hoping for more of that complexity found in “Orphan Song” in her next work.

In A Word: Austere

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