REVIEW: Mint Julep - Broken Devotion

Kelly Kirwan

Mint Julep is the marriage of two musicians—literally. A power couple when it comes to light, hazy vocals and sweeping synths, Hollie and Keith Kenniff have spun together a dreamy followup album to their 2011 compilation Save Your Season. Giving themselves four years worth of melodic think-tank time, the two have brought their respective strengths to an album that grapples with themes of love and its either weighted or ethereal effects.

True to its title, Broken Devotion handles the highs and lows of human connection with a feather-light touch. Hollie's vocals are trance-like and wrapped around her husband's multi-faceted arrangements, and the interplay is akin to a ballet, with Keith providing the framework for his wife to gracefully interpret at the forefront. They even throw us a piece of '80s nostalgia with their cover of When in Rome's "The Promise," taking the previously earnest vocals and giving them a soothing, somewhat overcast quality. Either way, Mint Julep's reinterpretation is chock-full of atmospheric electronica and steady (but not overwhelming) percussion—which is no surprise considering this is a facet of Keith's Berklee pedigree. "The Promise" was the perfect pick to showcase the Kenniffs' merged interests in an experimental kind of shoegaze.

The album was also, in small part, a ploy to get the somewhat performance-shy Hollie to show off her vocal chords. Keith mentioned the stress that comes with composing and crafting music, and how that anxiety and pressure was alleviated in their collaboration (I know, they're sweet, cool, and still easy to stomach—not an easy feat). This LP functions as a catalog of those brainstorming years together, a sort of musical scrapbook. The fact that these two gravitated to a subject matter encapsulated by the phrase "broken devotion," however, is slightly troubling at first. But—and these may just be the rose-colored glasses talking—the Kenniffs' don't seem to have lost their affection for one another in the slightest. This seems to be a cathartic undertaking, instead of a self-prophecy.

Take "White Hot Heart," which tells the tale of a frayed relationship finally coming undone. The song begins with a spacey sort of ambiance, which then quickly propels itself into a steady beat as Hollie sings, "Even when you won't let you go / You know this will pass / Even when you're hanging on / Well, you're almost at the door." The urgency of Keith's melody paired with Hollie's gentle sound captures both the intensity and exhaustion of letting go. It's a nice representation of their joint vision for Broken Devotion, and stills from the accompanying music video (a snowscape and a woman wandering in a wedding gown) look equally delicate and intriguing.

Other songs, like "Murmur," have a darker intensity, with cymbal-sounds and a faster pace, proving that the Kenniffs' can create music with a rough edge if they feel so inclined. It's an interesting dynamic to see (or rather, hear) how a partnered couple tackles the harsher fallout of romance, especially when it can come across as rather soothing. If anything, this shows that Mint Julep is more than just a quirky side project in the Kenniff household. They're a band that will likely work their way into a permanent place on your pensive chill-out playlist.