Amber Mark’s musical curiosity is palpable throughout her wide-ranging discography that includes chimeric blends of R&B, soul, hip-hop and bossa nova. Mark commands a vocal maturity that has remained tangible since her releases of 3:33am (2017) and Conexao (2018). The former project explored the gravity of losing her mother, while the latter reintroduced her openness for intimate relationships with family, friends, and lovers alike.
Returning with her first full-length LP Three Dimensions Deep—an hour-long waltz through the now 28-year-old singer-songwriter and producer’s mind—Mark hangs her own anxieties up to dry. Through a three-act narrative that tackles self-doubt, reassurance, and resurgence, Amber Mark takes fans on a cosmic-themed journey of self-discovery.
Mark’s insecurities stem from the global pandemic, as many lyrics mention a longing for the good tidings of yesteryear. This main stressor bleeds into smaller stressors of “feeling faded” and a need to take on tasks one step at a time. It’s a theme that’s been explored by many over the course of the last two years, but Amber’s take is both refreshing and unique.
“One” explores Mark’s frustrations concerning uncertainty and diminished self-worth. A clear push-and-pull is established, emphasized by the dually prophetic-yet-unsettling synthetics. Regardless, Mark makes a clear promise to herself and to her late mother, ensuring that she will navigate the challenging emotions she has come to bear. She refuses to throw in the towel.
The pairing of “What It Is” and “Most Men” takes on lyrically somber undertones. God, gospel, and the cosmos are tangible on these tracks as Mark searches for answers: “So there goes my heart / I fell apart / Trying to love / Wanna be free / So, God, tell me please / Is it in the stars?”
Mark rounds out Act I: Insecurities with “Healing Hurts,” a trap-laden ballad that explores her mixed emotions regarding a lost lover, “Bubbles,” a clear nod to her coping mechanism that dances over a 2018 Steve Aoki-esque club beat, and “Softly,” assures she is not one to settle. Uncertainty is the better word choice here as these tracks lack one unifying direction. Mark teeters back and forth, from wanting her man, to pushing him away, then relying on alcohol—specifically beer: “Skip the shots with the lime / Right back to the bubbles, every night / Yeah, I feel alright,” to cope with the impactful loss.
The transitory period of this album kicks off with “FOMO” and “Turnin’ Pages,” two tracks that are clearly defined as hopeful, especially when juxtaposed with the former five. “FOMO” or “Fear of Missing Out” highlights Mark’s declaration to get back out there and live life…well, as normally as our post-coronavirus world will allow. She’s determined that she “Won’t miss out on living happily / It’s about time.” This track emphasizes Mark’s recognition for change, but the ink is still wet. If “FOMO” is the game, “Turnin’ Pages” feels like its hangover. The beat is slower, more pronounced, and slightly lethargic, as Mark’s lyricism falls into spacier, achy, and insatiable bellows. After all, she’ll have to work for the change she desires; it’s just a dream without concentrated effort.
My all-time favorite track from this project has to be “Foreign Things,” which was released as a teaser to this album last year. This song brings Mark back to the bar, where she’ll be all night if you need her. It’s the beginning of the project’s second act that feels hopeful and joyous, at least for a time. Mark’s vocals blend effortlessly with the synthetic piano chords throughout this eventual bar classic.
Mark then turns to the cosmos on the second half of this project. “On & On” – another hangover? —reminds us that our emotions will ebb and flow; that there are highs and lows, which is one of Amber Mark’s main messages on this project. This is also where the project takes a turn to the more contemplative and spacier. It’s a grandiose track that feels beautiful.
“Out of This World” is a slower, more methodical moment of self-reassurance and discovery. In the sense of a narrative, it blends nicely with the project as a whole, but the cosmic imitations can be a bit overwhelming. This track is deliberately airy, but are so tightly produced that they almost dissuade the listener’s mind from wandering as Amber Mark’s has.
The third and final act, the feeling of accomplishment and victory, kicks off with “Cosmic.” This track hangs on ever so dearly to the world beyond our very own theme that has started to lose luster by this point. As a single track, “Cosmic” is my third favorite on this album. It’s a moment that strikes hopefully and passionately. It seems that Amber Mark is ready to quell whatever inner demons have haunted her for this long while.
This inkling is reassured with the bombastic “Darkside” that sounds like Mark has released a Goliath upon any and all doubts she’s ever had about herself.
The final act feels like a victory lap led by the aforementioned “Darkside” and followed by the likes of “Worth It,” “Competition,” “Bliss,” and “Event Horizon.” “Worth It” is a worthy bedroom-pop track; “Competition” sounds like something from the young Justin Beiber vault; “Bliss” is heartwarming and bassy, and everything ties together nicely as the album concludes on the atmospheric “Event Horizon.”
While the theme of enduring hardships prompted by coronavirus has been explored ad nauseam, Amber Mark’s take should propel her to the airwaves and bar stereos across the nation. She is clearly a student of the game and of many genres, as there is something for everyone on this monumental debut outing.
Three Dimensions Deep is out now.