Nick Mery, who bills his electronically enhanced one-man band as Merykid, carries a cardboard box up to the performance area with him, but he’s not trying to pull off a Tom Waits broke-down hobo look, or convince you he’s a boxcar-hopping beatnik.
The box has an asymmetrical smiley face Sharpied on its side, and Mery mainly uses it to hold whichever of the two hats he isn’t currently wearing. He wraps a mic stand in scarves and calls it his “roommate.” “I’m not checking my phone,” he explains at one point, after checking his phone. “My set list is on my Blackberry.”
All of this is appropriate. Like countless acoustic-slinging singer-songwriters, Mery projects the image of a loner, but a more modern one, alienated by technology.
“You never looked so good as on the day that you walked away,” Mery sing-whispers in new song “New Tricks,” as though he’s charming the memory of a girlfriend who’s long since left him back into bed. He feeds his voice through an effects pedal that distorts it till it sounds something like Paul Simon singing into an abandoned subway tunnel. The electronic alienation could make the lyrics into a downbeat Facebook status update, ignored by the one it’s intended for and lost in the oceans of ones and zeros we produce each day. Or maybe he just thinks it sounds cool. It does. Doubly so on “Someday,” which pits Mery’s melodic strumming against a sample loop that clinks and rattles like John Bonham soloing on champagne flutes. The distortion effects also obscure the lyrics, giving them a needed layer of removal, an artificially generated subtlety. The narrator of “Winter,” for example, struggles to “figure out how to get this girl off my mind,” and complains that the title character “comes and goes just like the cold.” The undisguised emotional simplicity puts Mery more in line lyrics-wise with Jack Johnson or John Mayer, but Mery also shows a promising willingness to bury his well-groomed vocal scruff in unconventional noise.
Before he begins “Three Wishes,” Mery invites everyone in the audience to become an honorary member of the band by shaking their keys and snapping their fingers. The audience participation turns the small venue into a giant, erratically shaken tambourine, and it makes lines like “I’d take all the TV channels and turn them to the zoo/ I’d throw all those bastards on Wall Street in cages and let the animals do what they choose” seem less awkward and more rebellious than they otherwise would. “If She Only Knew,” though, manages to make a well-worn girls-as-stars metaphor resonate on the strength of Mery’s vocal delivery alone. Or maybe it’s the banjo.
In either case, Merykid’s worth a listen if you don’t mind mixing your guilty soft pop-rock with pretty-sounding highbrow experimentation. Hear him for yourself by downloading one of two free albums available at merykid.com.
— Jeremy Martin