Album Review: Trixie Mattel — ‘One Stone’
In 2017 a drag queen with big hair and unbelievable amounts of make-up on her face reached #2 on the US Heatseeker charts with a country/folk album. Now Trixie Mattel, the alter ego of singer-songwriter Brian Firkus, is killing two birds with one stone.
No, literally, she is killing the campaign for her debut record ‘Two Birds’ with the release of its follow-up ‘One Stone’.
Listening to the seven tracks on the brand new mini album, it becomes clear that Trixie’s just as talented at writing music as she is at choosing album titles.
1. “Little Sister” (10/10)
Back when ‘Two Birds’ was released, Trixie stated in an in-depth interview that she had written a lot more songs, which she was planning to release if her debut would be a success. It was, and now here we are with ‘One Stone’.
The drag queen’s sophomore mini album opens with “Little Sister”, a mid-tempo song that Trixie had already premiered live. The track takes us back to Trixie’s roots, addressing the singer-songwriter’s younger sister. Trixie urges her to leave home and go see the world, asking “if you only lived here, did you really ever live at all?” and pointedly stating “you think that you’re growing, but you’re just tall.”
While the melodies are upbeat and catchy, the superbly-written lyrics — which incorporate internal rhymes as an outstanding characteristic of Trixie’s writing — transform the song into a melancholic-yet-hopeful masterpiece. “Little Sister” makes you feel all sorts of things and — dare we say it? — easily beats all the impressive tracks on “Two Birds”.
2. “Break Your Heart” (9/10)
As soon as the brilliant instrumental intro starts, you know that Trixie is keeping both the tempo and the quality up with “Break Your Heart”. The verse melodies on this one are sublime, and the chorus is catchy as hell. It’s also comparatively simple in lyrical terms, which prevents the track from scoring a perfect 10/10.
In other words, “Break Your Heart” is the perfect song for radio and has plenty of hit potential. Kacey Musgraves, Dolly Parton and co. — take notes.
3. “Soldier” (9/10)
After its radio moment, ‘One Stone’ slows down and returns to the folk-style storytelling of “Little Sister”. No, I’m not talking about Kylie Minogue’s loose definition of “storytelling” as witnessed on her latest singles. This is a truly compelling, somber narrative that moves away from music’s favourite worn-out topic: love.
“Weirdness follows me wherever I go,” Trixie sings at the beginning of “Soldier”, before linking herself to the third-person addressee that gives the song its title. “Our hand moves faster with a scotch,” she confesses. “Spend the day regrettin’, but I’m bettin’ that you’ll do it all again next weekend.”
4. “Red Side Of The Moon” (10/10)
The by far longest track on ‘One Stone’ is a down-tempo ballad that oozes with captivating melancholy and describes a female character’s love for another woman in perfectly relatable lines. “Judy grew up stepping right beside her,” Trixie sings. “Loved her from the cover of the crowds. Judy’s heart was beating right beside her even with the music loud.”
Chronological third-person narration, inventive similes, and straightforward melodies showcase and highlight Trixie’s country/folk songwriting, making “Red Side Of The Moon” a beautiful journey back to musically simpler times and one of the standout tracks on ‘One Stone’.
5. “Moving Parts” (9/10)
The title of this track was probably inspired by Trixie Mattel’s show Now With Moving Parts, which references Barbie as the drag queen’s aesthetic inspiration. The song “Moving Parts”, however, has little in common with the plastic representation of an unrealistic female body, as it looks deep into the hearts and souls of people.
An acoustic version of the track had already been released as a first teaser for ‘One Stone’, coinciding with Trixie’s appearance on season 3 of the popular Reality TV show RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race. In comparison, the album version is faster and features an enriched instrumentation. It doesn’t, however, lose any of its intimacy.
Trixie sings of “all the paper people wandering about, wondering who made them and who’s gonna cut them out.” Once again, the lyrics are brilliantly written, and by the time the chorus line “no one gave a warning to the breaking of your heart” comes around, it’s impossible to keep your eyes dry.
6. “The Well” (8/10)
The mini album slows down again for “The Well”, a short but poignant ballad. Its lyrics are as captivating and relatable as we’ve come to expect from Trixie, culminating in verse lines such as “So you sold your soul and now you’re on the run, arcade tokens and a smokin’ gun.”
The lyrical writing clearly outshines the melodies here. Sure, there is little room for innovation when it comes to ballad hooks, and the simple chorus is far from a let-down, but compared to the other tracks on ‘One Stone’, this one falls just a tiny bit behind.
7. “Wind Up Man” (9/10)
Just as she did with ‘Two Birds’, Trixie Mattel finishes ‘One Stone’ in an uncharacteristic manner with an up-tempo song. “Wind Up Man” is a Dolly Parton style country bop with uplifting hooks and a silly-in-a-good-way “ba dum bum bum bum” part.
The lyrics, interestingly, are still heartbreaking. In true Dolly fashion, Trixie tells a camp-yet-sad story about finding love in a robot man and then losing him when he breaks down in the rain. It works amazingly as a metaphor for all too many relationships, ending with the hard-hitting line “just keep training to expect feeling all the pain”.
With ‘One Stone’ Trixie Mattel flawlessly continues what she started with ‘Two Birds’, delivering first-rate country-folk with compelling narratives and catchy melodies. The drag queen doesn’t shy away from new topics and intriguing characters, diving deep into the ups and downs of life, which is the greatest asset of her music.
In a world with too much hate, too many narrow minds, and too many songs that are devoid of any substance, Trixie Mattel’s sophomore record is near-perfect ray of light in the gloom.
Stream or (preferably) download ‘One Stone’ wherever music is (legally) offered and follow Trixie Mattel on her social media.