Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Avery Mandeville, bassist Chris Dubrow, drummer Owen Flanagan, guitarist Matt Fernicola, and keyboardist Noah Rauchwerk; New Jersey band Little Hag is your new favorite Indie band. With the release of their new album Whatever Happened to Avery Jane? and signing to well renowned music label, Bar None, the group has propelled themselves into the Alternative/Indie music scene. With their unique way of blending grunge vocals, indie lyrics, and alternative guitar work, this band is undeniably something to be listening to right now. According to Little Hag's Bandcamp biography, they were "conceived in a New Jersey basement and born-again during quarantine" which fits the group's description pretty well, considering how the group was brought together. Originally Mandeville had begun releasing music such as her album Happy Birthday Avery Jane and EP Salty, under her full name. However, with the knowledge that she wanted more stylistic influences she decided to add more members and change the name. That being said, their first album Whatever Happened to Avery Jane? is not only a nod to the 1962 horror film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? but also a turning point for Mandeville in her musical career.
Compiled of 10 tracks full of raw truth and heartfelt lyrics, Whatever Happened to Avery Jane? consists of songs that show the world through Mandeville's unique point of view as she navigates throughout life and the music scene. A blend of both new songs, and older tracks she had recorded under her full name, this album immediately grabs the listener's attention with the first track "Tetris." Mandeville immediately opens up both the album, and the song, with lyrics "Everyone wants to fuck me, no one wants to see me cry." These lyrics represent how she views being an object of sexual desire, rather than an actual living and breathing person. Additionally, by opening up herself with these lyrics, the listener can immediately understand how personal this album will be. A music video was recently released for this song which looked genuinely fun to make, and showcased Mandeville's individuality.
The second track "Facebook" was one of my personal favorite songs on the album. This was not only due to the chorus being incredibly catchy, "Who's your new girlfriend and why isn't she tagged in/Anything you're tagged in. I know every new picture and I don't see anyone else but you" but also because the band knew exactly how to follow the vibe of Mandeville's vocals. Additionally with Mandeville's laughter, and the band singing "why" after the chorus was repeated, the song felt genuine and fun to create. It also made the "why" sound like this person being looked at has other people to answer to rather than just Mandeville herself.
The third song "Walk of Shame" sounded punk-like with the fast rhythm of both the bass and vocals. After the chorus came in "Yeah, yeah, yeah do the walk of shame" the band seemed to explode into sound, and the keyboard could be heard doing a fun little riff. The intention of this song sounded like it was meant to normalize and even celebrate sex or going out. Rather than sex being something scandalous or embarrassing, Mandeville used the term "walk of shame" on itself and made into something that could be fun and normal.
"No More Dick Pix" was an excellent follow up to "Walk of Shame" because it utilized the song's prior speed and Punk style as the track progressed, yet it also added in a superb Grunge approach to its lyrics. During this song Mandeville slowly sang the lyrics, "Please, please, please, please, no more dick pics." This helped get the point across that she, nor anyone else, wants unsolicited dick pictures. Other lyrics like "You give them an inch, they'll give you less than that" referred to how even if someone is flirtatious, that isn't an invitation that they want to see your cock. Halfway through this track the band completely lets loose with a wild style of guitar work which was unquestionably entertaining to hear and jam out to.
Track five "A Quarter to Four" marked the halfway point to the album, and moved in a slower style than the last songs had. Lyrics such as "I never want to feel like this again" and "I break my back, say the same thing every time/I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine" represented how even though Mandeville has created a lively front image, behind it she struggles just like everyone else. This unique artist transparency is something to be admired because it is seldom shown or discussed in the entertainment scene. The revealing nature of "A Quarter to Four" also helped prepare the listener for other melancholy themes that Mandeville sings about, like on track six, "Alexander" and track eight, "Predator."
"Alexander" immediately began with a slow acoustic guitar introduction in which Mandeville sang "Alexander bangs his head against the wall/When I left him there, I left him after all." She also sang, "Take the needle out from your arm, you're the only one who could ever do you harm." These lyrics show the deteriorating mental state of Alexander, and his struggles with addiction. Further, the chorus to this song "I can't save you I'm a stranger from the sea/You find North Carolina in everyone you meet/Can I get a witness to this self-destructive scene/Turn away from Alex cause he's sleeping on the street" helped establish the relationship between Mandeville and Alex. Although Mandeville is a "stranger from the sea," she knows enough to call out for "a witness to this self-destructive scene" because Alex will inevitably relapse due to how he "find[s] North Carolina in everyone you meet." Unfortunately, nobody was able to help Alex and he was left "sleeping on the street."
Track seven "The Woods" began with Psych-Rock guitar work that sounded as if it had come straight out of an '80s Horror movie. With low-toned vocals, Mandeville's sang, "Walking out in the middle of the night/Don't turn around, don't be terrified. You don't know what's on the other side" which helped set the mood and stage for this eerie song. Further into the track she switches up the lyrics to, "Sitting down with ghosts in your mind/take it easy don't be terrified/You can't kill what's inside" which helped show how you're only scaring yourself. Additionally due to all this talk of ghosts, the lyrics "You don't know what's on the other side" becomes a double entendre because we don't know what's beyond the black veil.
"Predator" was the most heart-wrenching song on the album due to it's themes of rape and molestation. Within the song's first verse Mandeville sang, "First with his eyes, he stalks her out/Then with his mouth wide grinning. Then with his hands, palms facing up/She intertwines, she's so trusting/But when she wants out, he closes her mouth/She can run, but she's not that fast." Immediately the listener is faced with a hard scene of this animal-like person stalking a girl like prey and forcing themselves upon her. After this verse Mandeville chants the letters ""P-R-E-D-A-T-O-R" alongside a steady drum beat to solidify just what this animal-like person is. Within the next verse of the song, Mandeville sang about the disbelief the girl received when she finally found the courage to talk about the trauma. Instead, those people decided to side with the predator, "So everyone knows, and nobody cares/And you know who you are. There is a liar, and there are sympathizers, and you know where you stand." This is an all too real subject that happens far too many times, and events like these never become easier to hear.
Track nine "Knockoff," and ten "Encore – Live in Asbury Park" helped close this album out on a positive note. Both tracks successfully portrayed Mandeville as someone who does not taking any shit and how she had "worked too hard to be arguing with a screen." Towards the end of the album Mandeville revealed that "I got new stuff coming out soon/I got more stuff I wanna say" which was met with heavy applause from the crowd.
Whatever Happened to Avery Jane? was a rollercoaster of emotion to listen to, and this album needs to be on everyone's Fall playlist. From emotional highs like the tracks "Walk of Shame" or "Knockoff," to bitter lows like "Alexander" or "Predator," this first album by Little Hag was unbelievable to listen to. The listener is able to experience what it's like to live in Mandeville's shoes from the moment the album starts, and by the end is better able to understand what goes on within the unique mind of Mandeville. This experience also makes the listener eager to not only hear more from this band, but also to see what their live shows are like.