While some artists are perfectly content to chase the sound of their forerunners, others like Chris Mardini will do whatever it takes to forge ahead with their craft and cultivate something original and unprecedented. I wouldn’t say that Mardini’s new single “Retrospective Outlook” totally changes the game for alternative pop/rock as we know it, but there’s definitely something to be said about its homespun (and slightly experimental) amalgamation of texture and tone. In this track, we discover a songwriter who has no interest in playing his parents’ music; in “Retrospective Outlook,” Chris Mardini distinguishes himself from the outgoing generation of rockers decisively and makes it clear to anyone listening that he’s the real article, through and through.
Mark Needham’s fingerprints are all over this master mix, which is undeniably one of the more refined elements of this sterling single. The guitars spill right out of the speakers and shake the floorboards beneath our feet as much as the bass does, and even when the vocal is slicing through the cacophony of percussion with an angelic gracefulness, the contrast is never so severe that we lose sight of the hook tying everything together. Needham took a good song and turned it into a great single in “Retrospective Outlook,” and together with producer Marc Swersky he deserves just as much credit for its inevitable success as Mardini himself does. It doesn’t have to sport gilded grooves, but having a sleek sonic finish can often make or break a pop track in today’s discriminating market.
I would love to see Chris Mardini live sometime. If he could maintain even a sliver of the dynamic presence that he’s got in this studio session during an in-person performance, then trying to prevent a meteoric ascension into the primetime limelight might become impossible. He’s not perfect by any means there are a few predictable components in “Retrospective Outlook” that I would deem excusable considering the place this young man is at in his career – but that’s just not as important as his having the skills that he does now, before he’s even thought about recording a full-length LP. One thing I’m sure of is that we haven’t heard the best this guy can do yet; he’s beginning to explore the depth of his musicality here, and it’s going to take some time for him to make it the most monolithic beast that it can become.
Alternative music is changing a lot in 2019, but artists like Chris Mardini are keeping its core values alive in songs like “Retrospective Outlook.” This single makes for an excellent addition to any summer road trip playlist, and I can completely see it finding a home on mainstream radio as much as it could the college beat this season. Mardini could do almost anything he wants with this sound right now, but I really do hope that he continues to toy with the pop-influenced style of songwriting that he’s using in this track. “Retrospective Outlook” is a surreal cocktail of sugar and spice, and with any luck, it won’t be the last one that we’re served this year.