Chris Mansfield bears his soul from the get-go on his debut as Fences, The Ultimate Puke EP. Put out there because, “I figured I might as well name this group of songs I’d been writing and have something to do with myself”, Mansfield brings about some touching alt-folk. While not revelatory, there’s certainly a good deal to build on with the (admittedly badly-titled) Ultimate Puke EP.
Fences begin with the high and pretty alt-folk of “My Girl The Horse”, which sets the stage well for what is to come. Mansfield then channels his inner Bright Eyes (QRO album review) with “The Same Tattoos”, but it’s the stuff you like about Conor Oberst, with Fences’ single-worthy acoustic folk-pop not over-done in the feelings department. There are other tracks where Mansfield gets perhaps a bit too emotional, and a little thin, such as the penultimate “The Knees”, while the soft “Fires” is a touch too soft, and the soft-but-grand “Sang Joseph” never quite explodes like it should. But he also varies it up, including two very different renditions of “Your Bones”: a close-up, lo-fi bedroom recording in the middle, and a slightly disco-trance backbeat/background version to the end the EP.
However, The Ultimate Puke EP is maybe at its best when Mansfield plays things a bit wrier on “Boys Around Here”. The low-key number has an interesting attitude and a more of a hook, something Fences will hopefully expand into in the future. But as it is, they’ve got the planks to go higher.