Marykate O’Neil is back with her third solo release, mk-ULTRA, and the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter has lost nothing of the perfect blend of sweetness and cynicism that marked 2006’s critically acclaimed 1-800-Bankrupt. Hailed by Filter as a “rare instance where everything simply clicks" and Rolling Stone as “deeply authentic and original,” Bankrupt cemented the standard of songwriting talent O’Neil is known for and delivers again with mk-ULTRA.
While studying at Boston University, O’Neil formed the band Piewackit, who came to be known around the Northeast for their retro-pop hook-laden confections and O’Neil’s angelic vocals. After gigs with acts such as Mary Lou Lord, Juliana Hatfield, and Elliott Smith, Piewackit put out Sockmonkee in 1997. Marykate went on to release a self-titled solo album in 2002, followed by 2006’s 1-800-Bankrupt.
Like Marykate O’Neil and 1-800-Bankrupt, mk-ULTRA was produced in a spirit of collaboration. “Most of the people who played on this record played also on the last two records as well,” says O’Neil. “I feel lucky to have all of my friends play on the record because music for me has always been about community…and in that spirit I always try to drag about everyone I know into my projects.” Fortunately, O’Neil seems to know no one but talented musicians. She shares producing credit with Jill Sobule and Roger Moutenot, and contributors include Mickey Grimm, and Ken Maiuri.
“The themes in mk-ULTRA are a bit of the morning after the party,” reveals O’Neill. “It’s a bit about the darker side of NYC downtown life...the moment in a relationship where you realize you can't save it....and the moment in time when you realize you can't save someone.” This EP includes two covers, one of Randy Newman’s ‘Living Without You’, and one of ‘Happy’, by her friends and collaborators Jill Sobule and Adam Schlesinger. “I recorded and picked the two covers I did because I thought they completed the story well,” explains O’Neil. “I recorded a song of one of my friends because I was thinking how lucky I was to be around all these talented people, and started thinking it would be fun to do covers of my friends songs... like how in the 60's everyone would be singing each others songs. So you would have Glenn Campbell singing a George Harrison song, and released at the same time. My friend Lianne Smith has started covering my song ‘The Sky is Falling’, and Matthew in Nada Surf has covered ‘Secret War’ in live shows. I think one night after a few glasses of wine we all decided we need to bring back this tradition!”
mk-ULTRA is coming out digitally on Nettwerk Records, and will be released in limited quantities on CD through O’Neil’s own collective project, 71 Recordings. A full-length album, Underground, will follow in February.
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