I find solo artists with a band name deceptive and confusing. I’m looking at you City & Color aka Dallas Green. You too Bat For Lashes aka Natasha Khan. And now, Fences. While sure, there are contributing members of the band, Fences is Christopher Mansfield. Christopher Mansfield is Fences. It’s confusing and unnecessary and I don’t really get it. Fortunately I can’t say the same about his new album, Lesser Oceans.
Lesser Oceans aka Fences’ second studio album, is the perfect balance of uplifting instrumentation and depth in lyrical content. In fact, it’s no stretch to say the entire album is in perfect balance; charm and attitude, entertainment and emotion, desire and loss, male and female. He even straddles the worlds of commercial appeal and off-beat artist-to-watch, with peer endorsements coming thick and fast in the form of feature artists and producers like Jacquire King of Kings of Leon and Of Monsters And Men and Chris Walla of The Decemberists and Death Cab For Cutie. Mansfield has managed to create a fun and folky record within a small space that seems simple, yet will appeal to a wide and varied audience.
The price of our desires is the theme that echoes throughout Lesser Oceans the loudest, and one that Mansfield tackles from different angles. One of the most talked about singles from the record, Arrows featuring the almighty duo of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, is no exception. With a memorable melody off-setting a rap section that shouldn’t work quite as well as it does, the lyrics When God gives you everything / Everything you ever asked for / And it still looks a bit different / Then when you pictured it on that back porch don’t shy away from the question, what do we do once we get what we want? The short and sweet Running Off The Gods does the same, saying People all around me are telling me I’m so damn lucky / Well getting what I wanted, I became so damn ugly.
Sunburns and Songs About Angels play with this balance not only in lyrical content but in the instrumentation as well. Sad lyrics are pulled up by quick, uplifting beats and melodies. The perfect example of bittersweet, and while I so enjoyed getting to know them, one track stood out to me by far. Bright, pretty, nostalgic and full of feeling, The Lake certainly is something special, with lyrics of love and regret that will feel all too familiar for most of us It’s too late, now I’m wishing that I loved you better / At the lake, now we’re both alone / It’s too late, now I’m wishing that I loved you better / It’s too late, oh whoa.
So I guess my lesson here is to not judge a book by it’s cover. This gorgeous man, facial tattoos and all, has surprised me with the sensitivity in his lyrics and the pure enjoyment in the music. I judged a book by it’s cover, and really, what was I thinking? A rose by any other name, right? Fences, Chris, whatever. I think you’re wonderful and you have a fan in me. Plus Dallas and Natasha are fantastic, so I’m over it. Bring on the stage names! In fact, I think I kind of want one. Please leave your suggestions in the comments.