Greg Mendez: “Maria”

Greg Mendez has a knack for doing a lot with a little. Like his frequent collaborator Shannen Moser, the Philadelphia-based songwriter packs quiet revelations into understated songs. Take “Maria,” the latest single off his upcoming self-titled record. “Everytime you say you wanna know me I get anxious/’Cause I would probably tell you about some dumb shit,” he tells someone, poking fun at himself with a hypothetical example—“‘You wanna hear this story about the time we got arrested at a crack den?’”—and then proceeding to talk about the dumb shit anyway. He paints an absurdly desperate scene, two guys so eager to escape arrest that they dive out a window without noticing that the cops are waiting right below. 

The gentle nonchalance of Mendez’s vocals and phrasing, paired with the song’s scratchy, repetitive guitar melody, create a soft simplicity that recalls early Alex G or Elliott Smith at his most lo-fi. But there’s complexity under the surface, and “Maria”’s final moments end with a sense of intentional ambiguity: “​​Earlier that day we were both clean/but then somebody said, ‘Come back to me because it’s easy,’” he sings, tangling together the need for relief from addiction and heartache. Mendez is right: This is not the best way to introduce yourself to a new companion, but his winding monologue ends up conveying something more honest than your average pleasantries.