Adam’s Underrated Records #7

Adam Fitzgerald
6 min readDec 20, 2017

“M A N G O L A N E” by Mango Lane

Artwork for Mango Lane’s 2017 album M A N G O L A N E

Adam’s Underrated Records #7
Stories of Criminally Overlooked Albums

by Adam Fitzgerald
@adamwfitzgerald on Twitter

“M A N G O L A N E” by Mango Lane

Best songs: “Anytime” — “Park Moments” — “Sex” — “Luck” ­­– “Patience”

Genres: indie, pop, rock, electronic, R&B, dream pop, chillwave

Influences: Neon Indian, Homeshake, Tame Impala, Real Estate, Toro y Moi, Mac DeMarco, Beach Fossils, Phoenix, Kindness

“M A N G O L A N E” is the debut album from Detroit “chill soul pop” indie band Mango Lane. Centering around the talents and foundation of singers and songwriters Austin Carpenter and Jack Engwall, Mango Lane has grown into a full live band that includes fellow Detroit area singer-songwriter Ian Ruhala (better known as HALA) on bass and fellow Michigan musician and writer Anthony Spak on drums. They are all young dudes from Detroit who may get the “slacker” tag but in truth they are hustling and proving themselves as the real deal.

Mango Lane (from left to right:) Jack Engwall, Austin Carpenter, Ian Ruhala and Anthony Spak. Photo courtesy of Evan Zott.

As a proper debut album, “M A N G O L A N E” marks a definite leap forward for the band, with a wider array of stylistic choices, even more sexy synths, great back and forths and harmonizing between Carpenter and Engwall, plus their trademark dancey guitar tracks are tastier than ever. Mango Lane started as a band that sounded like Real Estate, Beach Fossils or Mac DeMarco, and they still have that lower-fidelity slacker-fun indie guitar rock thing going on, but as they have evolved they sound closer to Tame Impala, Toro y Moi or ex-DeMarco collaborator Homeshake.

Honestly, I’ve been impressed with Mango Lane as soon as I found out about them around the end of 2015/ the beginning of 2016. They have a nice streak of solid releases going and their music is evocative because it’s easy to listen to and it’s genuine without taking itself too seriously. When my friends Dylan Caron, Jeff Yateman (Jemmi Hazeman) and myself started Shady Groves in 2015, Mango Lane was a band we became fast friends with. I’m always happy to share the stage with like-minded musicians from rural Michigan who had to find their providence by heading south to dirty Detroit.

But it’s also more than just the local connection for me — I’ve always heard something special in Mango Lane, I think they have a definitive sound that people can really catch onto — I wouldn’t be surprised if they blow up.

Mango Lane masterminds — singer/songwriters/guitarists/multi-instrumentalists — (from left:) Austin Carpenter & Jack Engwall in Detroit

Opening track “Anything” sets the tone with dreamy synths, wistful lyrics and quality production that ties everything together. The music these guys make has a definitive throwback vibe, conjuring up neon colors and packed glowing dance floors in listeners’ minds. For some reason, Mango Lane always remind me of what I imagine it would have been like to live in Miami during the 80s.

Mango Lane’s arrangements have grown more complex, with parts shifting at just the right points in the songs to keep everything interesting yet understandable. Second track “Is It Over Yet?” opens with a swirl of synths and then a chugging chorus-affected bass line comes in ala The Cure without the gloom. A slow-burning ballad with some space-shine grit, “Is It Over Yet?” begins to relay that Mango Lane are much more than a one-trick-pony band.

“Sex” is an undeniable single that mixes a cutting 70s-sounding guitar riff with glittering synths, cooing harmonies, tasteful bass lines and tight, dance-ready rhythms. The sexy guitar riff in “Sex” has a very striking similarity to a Tame Impala “Lonerism” B-side called “Led Zeppelin” but only in an homage, clever type of way, not in a copyright infringement / lawsuit type of way.

“Park Moments” is probably my favorite song on the record. I’m not a crazy enough fan to analyze who writes what in the Carpenter/Engwall Lennon/McCartney partnership, but I will say that the duo do an incredible job weaving their songwriting together and lifting each other up. “Park Moments” is the point in the record when it becomes apparent the entire album is indeed as consistent as its finest moments. Truly great guitar work, tasteful songwriting and unique keyboard sounds lock perfectly with the steady drums, catchy melodies and memorable refrains. There’s a really cool breakdown / bridge and I love the chords the song ends with - Mango Lane obviously understand small moments in songs are important.

“Luck” is a slow burner that again showcases Mango Lane’s talents and capabilities with intriguing, wavy, dreamy synth selections and relatable, understandable lines. “Luck” sounds like the best moments of “chillwave” era Neon Indian, with woozy synths that eventually warp the song into the next track on the album: “City.”

“City” is another track that highlights Mango Lane’s ability to drench a song in nostalgia while also making it sound like something brand new. Thematically, this song speaks to the albums motifs of aging, developing and learning — as well as revisiting what it’s like being young; making and losing love. The line “You’re not gonna get a better understanding of the world if you don’t see it/ So we need to find the time and help each other/ Maybe we’ll understand and love one another” relates Mango Lane’s humble nature and good intentions.

Mango Lane live in Detroit — (from left:) Jack Engwall on guitar, synth and vocals, Austin Carpenter on guitar, synth and vocals, Anthony Spak on drums and samples, Ian Ruhala on bass and vocals.

“Elaborate” is a classic Mango Lane song — as I’ve got to know them this song speaks to me as “classic them” because it has pulsing, unique synths, catchy guitar lines that remind me of the tightly-picked Phoenix guitar licks and there’s a tasty mid-track jam that most bands are typically too afraid to try or are not talented enough to pull off in their music.

The closing track “Patience” is another contender for best song on the album for me. The concept of patience is something I constantly try and promote to other people, as it is a virtue that many (if not most) people lack.

“Patience” is an instrumental, which has also become kind of a staple for Mango Lane — they typically include at least one fantastically clever instrumental on each release. “Patience” is a song that hits deep, recalling some of Beach Fossils best work (Beach Fossils have always been better than Diiv in my mind, but some people might think of Diiv if they hear this song) but there are deeper influences on “M A N G O L A N E” and Mango Lane’s music in general — like Steely Dan, The Smiths and synth-pioneers Pink Floyd or Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

“Patience” strikes me because it is intricate while being simple — although there are no lyrics in the song, the music and slightly melancholy guitar lines speak volumes and end “M A N G O L A N E” on a high note. Mango Lane are cool young dudes into skating, music and art who infuse their life experiences into the chillness of their music — it’s so easy to listen to because it’s tastefully done and so relatable.

Mango Lane have so much potential as a band, they are one of the few “newer” or “younger” bands that I am genuinely excited about, because each release from them has been so consistent. I look forward to hearing what Carpenter and Engwall cook up for the future of Mango Lane. Whether they are breaking hearts, skateboards or guitar strings, I’m interested to follow the voyage of Mango Lane to uncharted sexy-synth-patch-laden indie paradise.

You can download “M A N G O L A N E” from Mango Lane’s BandCamp, listen to it on their SoundCloud or on YouTube. If you like these songs, buy this album! Support local music! All legit, real ass music starts at the local level and no art can continue, let alone grow, without support — so support art!