Mark Coté

Funhouse of Your Mind

Picture This! Records
Mark Coté has created a brilliant concept album of original music which features easy vocals, dynamic harmonies and deep emotions hidden within deceptively lively melodies. It’s a CD whose rhythms will make you feel good, but whose lyrics will make you think. While the tempos are generally upbeat, the lyrics express a range of feelings—loneliness, jealousy, optimism, resignation, a loss of innocence—that whirl around one’s brain and jump out without warning, like the surprises in a carnival funhouse—hence the album’s title.

Coté sings in a breezy style reminiscent of early Harry Nilsson or the young Paul McCartney, creating music that combines soft rock, rhythm and blues and an over-arching vaudeville influence that provide a nice lilt to each song along with the very catchy melodies. His vocals are expressive and charming, and he supplements his primary tracks with multiple tracks of self-harmonies that add to the attractive sound. Cote also plays his own piano on the CD, supported grandly by a great-sounding amalgam of instruments, including a musical saw.

Cote invites listeners in with the funhouse metaphor in the first song, “Fun House” (“Grab your ticket, spin the wheel and get in line … Nothing is what it appears”), which features an insinuating vocal that suggests something sinister and haunting, then proceeds through 10 more appealing cuts using a series of powerful metaphors to explore a range of feelings—for example, “(Melting Like a) Snowman in July” to express vulnerability, “Eyes Wide Closed” for optimism in a pessimistic world, “While the Clothes Go Round” to reflect the frustrations of being alone on a Saturday night.

Aside from the bouncy title cut, Cote’s most evocative song may be “I Wish You Rain,” about the jealousy one feels for a love who has moved on (“No one should be as happy as you are/Not while I’m still left alone here/For all your blue-skied tomorrows with him/Secretly I wish you rain”).

In “Everybody’s Waiting,” he explores the time people waste waiting for something better to come along (“Everybody’s waiting for one thing or another/While waiting for tomorrow to begin”); in “Everywhere but Here” he sings about irony when a love affair is over, but memories persist (“Everywhere I look I see you my love/Everywhere but here”); and in “Are You Listening?” he describes the frustration after a breakup (“I respect your need for silence/But aren’t you ever lonely for a friend?”).

Funhouse of Your Mind is a CD that benefits from repeated listening to pick up on all the musical niceties and lyrical cleverness. Providing all the lyrics in a booklet enclosed within the album adds to the enjoyment of the piece.

Elliot Zwiebach
Cabaret Scenes
July 1, 2013