New Jersey’s own Mariel Loveland, otherwise known as Best Ex, is on the prowl to ruin your life with the release of her new studio album, With A Smile. Bringing her brand of dreamscape pop-rock to the masses in a well-packaged experience that’s sure to have hearts fluttering.
It’s been quite a while since Mariel Loveland traded in her candy hearts for the sweet escape of synth melodies and neverending haze dreams. But does Mariel’s latest album, With A Smile, ruin our life in the best of ways? Or the “please cut off my ears” approach? Let’s find out.
“With A Smile,” in the least words possible, is simply special. The slight charm of a less than two-minute soft sung affair sent my senses for a ride of pure bliss as I got lost in Mariel Loveland’s sensational vocal delivery, almost like a late-night lullaby pushing me to sleep.
Lyrically, “With A Smile” shares an openness with the album’s core themes and sets the stage for facing the world, keeping a fake smile in your back pocket.
The album’s opening tune creates a relatable world with fantastical sounds and dreamy cloud-shaped lullabies that don’t bask too much in our world’s brokenness and false personas.
First off, I’m going to need to hear a sing-along of this song in a packed pub because those are the vibes coming off “Tell Your Friends.” It’s the perfect sing-along song for late Friday nights when you’ve finally escaped from the clutches of narcissism.
The simple structure of “Tell Your Friends” had me falling for each note quickly, leaving me singing along at the top of my lungs for a few days as I found myself relating to the subject matter with each listen, reflecting on my past relationships that involved pointless manipulation and my former love’s need for control.
Mariel’s experiences through life set a song like “Tell Your Friends” ahead of the rest, as it’s simple to love, easy to remember, and will reach everyone who shares the same story with relative ease. It’s a perfect “freedom” anthem.
How can Mariel Loveland keep putting together some of the catchiest and most relatable songs I’ve heard this year on one release? Three songs in, and I know the lyrics to all of them; I’m fully prepared for a Best Ex Southern California takeover.
“Give Me A Break” picks up the energy, big theme anthem vibes, and pure tearful sing-along powered nostalgia as she channels the sounds of the past to fuel her message, further creating a fantastic connection between artist and listener. Outside of anything blink-182, I’ve never connected with an entire album like this in quite some time.
Instrumentally, “Give Me A Break” is all beats, as blood rushes towards the heart, creating the perfect ending to a light show performance, sending listeners home with smiles and memories. If you can’t tell yet, I’m getting my point across that this song would be a perfect set closer; it has it all.
“Salt On Skin” is a fun, full-of-life tune that transforms surroundings into your favorite summer memories. Continuing her basic approach to her Best Ex tunes, “Salt On Skin” is simplified in the most fun ways, with stripped-back instrumentals that feel like a summer escape, the bright sun shining down, and wasting the cycles with friends.
It’s not my favorite song on With A Smile, but it’ll undoubtedly have its time to shine when summer comes around, and I need a new experience driving down Pacific Coast Highway.
Mariel’s ability to transport entire memories into reality truly sets her apart when it comes to her ability as a songwriter, and these accolades are on full display throughout “Salt On Skin.”
“So I promise to ruin your life/If you promise to ruin mine,” there’s something about this string of lyrics I love and can’t get enough of saying aloud. The vibe of “I Promise To Ruin Your Life” gives life, as this was a core song on my current workout playlist. There’s just something unique about the experience of listening to this one that got me pumped and full of life.
The “I Promise To Ruin Your Life” instrumentals are filled with a twinkle and ’80s nightclub flare that get the body moving. Listeners should let loose and let this single take over, as it’s a guaranteed good time.
Like the rest of With A Smile, this is a fun one filled with relatable qualities and memory-inducing melodies. At this rate, I’ll be singing “I know how this ends” for the rest of the year.
Who’s cutting onions around here? When I was first sent Best Ex’s new album, I was not expecting a mental moment filled with movie-quality streaming tears, but here we are. To say this one hurt would be an understatement, especially coming off the uniquely bright sound of “I Promise To Ruin Your Life.”
If you’re utterly new to Best Ex, and you only want to give the fantastic storytelling of Mariel Loveland one chance, make it this one, as chances are you’ll be coming back for more after you purchase a box of tissues.
The raw nature of “Stay With Me” has stayed with me, and I’ve listened to With A Smile more than my fingers can count. It’s a special yet heartbreaking song that’s all too real, and that’s what I secretly appreciate: the brutal truth in this mix of songs that doesn’t attempt to hide the primary feelings that come with being human. I’m sure I’ll cry to this one a few more times.
“Die For You” is simply powerful. Embracing the other side of manipulation that comes with the crappy underbelly of the music industry that’s sadly built upon the notion of “what can I get out of you.” Mariel teams up with Luxtides, a fabulous singer-songwriter in her own right, to create a brighter spotlight that hopefully shines more in the shadows of predatory practices.
Both women sound amazing in the track, the third single to be released from With A Smile, which also happens to hold a spot in my top five regarding this specific release.
The vocal delivery of both Mariel and Luxtides mixes perfectly with the surrounding wall of sound that is the track’s phenomenal arrangement. “Die For You” is a jam filled with the truth and should intrigue listeners throughout their first listen.
It’s not always easy to bring to light the shadows of the industry, but I’m glad musicians like Mariel Loveland and countless others are done with all the BS that comes with trying to get a foot in the door that should be built on your talent and not what they can steal. As Mariel states, the song can be summed up with the lyrics, “They don’t see the things you do behind the doors you opened that I walked through.”
“Cut Me Out” sets listeners back on the path of smooth beats that continue to carry the sweet vocal delivery of Mariel Loveland as she further grasps the senses with the sensational mix of dreamy instrumentals that are both relaxing and moving without losing touch of the big themes at play.
I’ve enjoyed the arrangement of songs on With A Smile; usually, something stands out of place, but when it comes to Best Ex’s latest album, everything is set perfectly, which helped me as a listener not once feel overwhelmed or lost. The sweet melodies and non-intrusive instrumentals of “Cut Me Out” helped fuel my daydreams and reflection periods.
The subtle nature of “Cut Me Out” helps the track stand out as a “must listen” and not get lost in the album’s other eleven unique experiences.
The song I spent most of my time with, “What The Hell,” is a blast of fire and sing-along experiences that make the dream-pop genre crazy fun. Lyrically, “What The Hell” isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, but the words are memorable, fun, and provide an enormous amount of dopamine when singing out of the car windows.
Compared to the top half of the album, songs like “What The Hell” continue the healing process and, once again, the reflection periods that went through the creation of With A Smile. Seeing the change in Mariel’s writing and following her experiences throughout the last few years is stunning.
You can genuinely pinpoint the emotions that went into each song, and “What The Hell” is a fantastic showcase of this. We’ve all felt the words sung throughout this three-minute bop without room for lying. The pulled-back truth being told in song makes me love this one.
There’s just something about finding your person, that person who accepts your cracks and missing pieces and genuinely loves everything about you unconditionally, and “Joyride” is all those happy emotions wrapped in a welcoming present with a bright pink bow.
As mentioned through “What The Hell,” it’s songs like this one that showcase the growth Mariel Loveland experienced through the last few years, growing from the shittiest of situations into cynicism to maybe allowing a genuine smile to flash even while still keeping a shadow of the past as a simple souvenir.
The feeling of letting go makes “Joyride” special, and it’s already on a few of my repeat playlists. This one is another that should transition into a live setting perfectly. Let’s be honest: when it comes to love, the best ones are the least expected and just connect.
Alongside “What The Hell,” “The End” is up there when it comes to songs from With A Smile that I had on constant repeat. Once again, the raw takeaways from the track hooked me instantly as someone always wondering when the world will end.
The inside-out approach of the focus track should fuel intrigue as listeners are transported back to our uncertain life that transpired just a few short years ago.
Not intended as a simple protest anthem, “The End” transpires the dread that floods the most delicate portions of our anxiety that comes with living in today’s world. The uncertain fabric that’s quickly ripping at the seams. The uncertain future of “The End” had me coming back for more.
Mariel’s haunting vocal delivery with the powered-up instrumentals created the perfect backdrop for the world’s end as business moved on as usual. Would you even recognize the end if it was right before you?
Coming from the shadows of the past and uncertain futures, “Daylight” bookends an amazing album experience. “Daylight” continues to shine a light on the inner turmoil and puzzling questions of life perfectly, once more trading in guitar-heavy instrumentals for a stripped-back suite of buzzing sounds that trigger my mind in the most beautiful ways.
The loop effect of With A Smile holds the album to a new standard as listeners will find themselves back at the start, living the past in their minds, trying to rebuild once more. It’s the vicious mental cycle With A Smile showcases so well that has it up on my list of best albums released in 2023 so far.
The dazzling imagination that came from “Daylight” was both beautiful and saddening all at once. The end is always a beginning, so I’ll be listening to this album quite a few more times before I feel like I can step away just for a moment.
So, to answer the question, did Mariel Loveland ruin our lives? In a way, yes, but in an earth-shattering fashion. She ruined our lives by creating a fantastic art piece that allows listeners into her own experiences, reliving personal memories, and embarking on a journey through oneself with her latest album as the soundtrack.
So, how exactly did Mariel Loveland ruin our lives? Because we’ll never get the chance to listen to With A Smile for the first time again. It is a beautiful album that’s revealing, truthful and doesn’t treat its listeners as pre-teens who don’t understand the world.
The ever-changing world that fueled these songs made this album instantly one of my favorites, and I’m already excited to tell everyone I know about it.