German-Canadian singer-songwriter Alice Merton isn’t afraid to get a little personal in her music, though it may not be in the way one might think.
At the start of her career, she joined forces with her manager Paul Grauwinkel to found Paper Plane Records International and released the now-famous “No Roots.”. The song steadily drew attention internationally, hitting #1 on Spotify’s Global Viral 50 and on the US alt radio charts and jump-started Merton’s career. This early success galvanized the team, inspiring them to release the EP No Roots soon after and now her first full length album, MINT.
MINT is a confessional indie pop album with influences that range from disco to Southern rock, pivoting often to keep you guessing about where it’s going to go next. Merton’s debut is a deeply personal album that touches on many aspects of her life–her professional struggles, her unmoored past, and to a lesser extent, her relationships. Mint introduces Merton’s audience to her worldview–what it is, where it came from, and where she plans on going with it.
The album kicks off–unexpectedly–on more of an alt rock note. “Learn to Live” frames the album with a strong guitar riff and a chant-along chorus, explaining how she wants to live a life that isn’t limited by her fears for the future. “To be honest, it’s one of my favorites on the album…I’m scared of flying! I’m scared of performing! I’m always scared, and it made my stomach feel so sick, and I needed that song to remind me, ‘You know what? You need to learn to live, because otherwise it’s a waste of your life.’” Merton told Atwood Magazine.
From here, Merton explores her past: “2 Kids” tells the story of how she and Grauwinkel moved to Berlin to make her music a reality, emphasizing their familial relationship and affirming their loyalty to one another. The song calls to mind Sia’s “Cheap Thrills,” only a more wholesome, almost cheesy vibe to it. Next up is the undeniable baseline that introduces “No Roots,” Merton’s signature song. “I like digging holes and hiding things inside them/When I grow old I hope I won’t forget to find them,” Merton sings in the first lines, kicking off the song with a bouncy tone that isn’t devoid of frustration as she describes the childhood she spent moving around, never getting attached to anyplace. The plucky love song “Homesick” continues the message, explaining that because of her past, she feels homesick for people instead of places.
It’s obvious that Merton isn’t afraid to touch on the frustration she’s felt in other aspects of her life. The intense “Lash Out” brings her sound back to alt rock to discuss how writing has become the only way to expel the anger inside of her. The Marina-esque misnomer “I Don’t Hold a Grudge” delves into her annoyance at a friend for dropping out of her life, only to appear when she gained notoriety in the music scene.
While her love life takes a back burner on MINT, she does touch on it in a few ways. Her second single “Funny Business” addresses a significant other’s concerns about what happens on a tour bus, promising “I don’t break hearts/I don’t like funny business/I just watch cars and watch them get hung up in it.” “Honeymoon Heartbreak” is the only breakup song on the album, describing a sudden breakup with instrumentation that’s so spare it’s nearly a cappella. One of the best songs on the album, “Trouble in Paradise,” leans towards disco as it predicts the end of a relationship.
Merton closes MINT with “Why So Serious,” a closing to the frame structure of the album with instructions to enjoy the present rather than get caught up in small anxieties. With this successful frame structure, a variety of subtle musical influences, and a focus on Merton exploring various aspects of herself and her history, MINT proves itself to be a very symmetrical album as well as a solid start for Merton. While nothing else on the album really captures the infectious energy of “No Roots,” the album holds its own and promises more great things from Merton in the future. MINT is worth a turn for fans of confessional indie pop, as well as fans waiting to hear more from artists like Marina (formerly Marina and the Diamonds) and Sky Ferreira.