MEAWW's Basement Tapes: Five artists who are facing down social and mental health issues through music
Music is universal, and perhaps, because of that, it can often serve as the perfect space from within which we can explore that which plagues us.
For as long as music has existed, artistes have used it to explore their own emotions and mental health. And as we find ourselves faced with a pandemic that has forced us into isolation and gotten us to rethink our lives, wounds we've ignored come rising to the surface.
In times like these, some artistes are using their music to heal and be healed. Here are four such artistes whose music is as liberating as it is ruminative.
Loud Hound - 'Melancholy Boy'
The solo project of singer-songwriter Tommy Florio, Loud Hound is a multi-genre act that juxtaposes lo-fi music with some rather somber topics. For the musician, who has spent his life moving from one place to another without ever really building a home, Loud Hound serves as a way to document the sense of longing and isolation that has punctuated his journey thus far.
To that end, 'Melancholy Boy' is wonderfully melodic and painfully tragic as it sees the singer open up about his struggles with depression and anxiety. It's an authentic and candid expression of the singer's lived experiences, particularly, what it feels like to be in love with the idea of someone as opposed to who they actually are.
Musically, Florio cites Beck, Arctic Monkeys, Tame Impala, Oasis, and Gorillaz as influences. Lyrically, he draws on everything from love, relationships, his past, as well as his coping mechanisms for depression to craft songs that are brutally honest, heartfelt, and relatable.
Listen to 'Melancholy Boy' HERE.
Forest Bees - 'Alexa'
Fifteen years after her critically-acclaimed indie rock group had its brush with the big time and fizzled out, member Sheetal Singh is taking up the mantle solo. But for Singh, this is hardly an easy undertaking. As the mother of two puts it, she is "a brown woman in what is still a very white indie rock world."
Singh originally played bass for San Francisco shoegazers The Stratford 4, and despite their success, she came to the realization that she wasn't where she wanted to be. "It wasn’t what I wanted to do. In fact, it never really was," she states. "I never felt like I was able to express myself in the Stratford 4, which was a white, male-fronted, guitar-heavy shoegaze band. I did love the music and my bandmates … [But] I knew I needed to do it on my own terms."
Singh had a voice of her own and a lot to say. And as Forest Bees, she finally gets to. She taught herself the software she needed to make music alone, sampled everything from whale song to overheard conversations, and embraced the world of dream-pop, allowing it to be the vehicle through which she discusses everything from postpartum depression and loneliness within marriage to cultural expectations and humanity’s intersection with artificial intelligence.
'Alexa' happens to be one of ten such tracks off Forest Bees' upcoming self-titled debut album that deals with the feelings of isolation in a world where technology mediates our interactions. It's a song about human connection, and though it was written before the current coronavirus pandemic, it is so remarkably on point for where the world is right now.
Listen to 'Alexa' HERE.
Minhee Jones - '6 Feet'
Alt-pop singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Minhee Jones' '6 Feet' began as an ode to self-medication, dealing with the heavy theme of seemingly self-destructive behaviors we may engage in as a way to distract ourselves from reality, but its release happened to coincide with the coronavirus pandemic, and it suddenly took on a whole new meaning.
Originally from Los Angeles, based in London, and being biracial (half-black, half-Korean), Jones has had quite the musical evolution, going from being trained in classical piano at the age of four to being a punk-rock bassist in high school, to eventually exploring her own sound and style while at university. Her experiences culminated in the sound she has created for herself today. And while she can call herself a vocalist now, that wasn't what she started out to be. The multi-instrumentalist confides, "I felt it was my duty to be a female instrumentalist first and challenge stereotypes in a very male-dominated field."
Speaking about the leading track '6 Feet, Jones states, "I feel like we're all in a place where our brains don't want to deal with the full scope of this terrible thing that has taken over the world and we are also - more than ever - surrounded with means to medicate ourselves into avoiding it, be it actual medication, booze, chocolate, Netflix, or social media. So we're stuck at home and suddenly we're drinking more and eating more and binging more tv and online ALL THE TIME in an effort to not deal with just how destructive this virus has been to humanity."
Sonically dreamy and soothing, '6 Feet' is a contemplative, thought-provoking track that feels like a wake-up call, one many of us were too distracted to realize we needed right now.
Listen to '6 Feet' HERE.
Moxi - 'Hush'
Moxi is a husband and wife indie-pop duo from Los Angeles that delivers some of the most introspective songs you have ever heard. Anna Toy's introspective vocals are layered over some of the most cinematic musical landscapes crafter by Andy Toy, and out of this wonderfully stunning combination comes the track 'Hush'.
The song is an abstract and emotional exploration of the feeling of pain. It features a minimalist production that serves Anna's vocoded lyrics wonderfully, creating what feels like a vortex of sound that sits as a backdrop to lyrics that ponder mental health and the collective human experience.
Moxi draws on more familiar indie-pop elements, including elements of dream-pop, but the duo is comfortable with layering in everything from electronica to '80s cinema, in addition to playing around with darker textures than what might be more common to the genres they work with. And they also do not shy away from tackling heavier topics like emotional turmoil and how we connect to one another.
To that end, Moxi's 'Hush' is wonderfully apt for the times, providing both an escape from reality with a tantalizing sound as well as a safe space within which we can all face the pain that can often be difficult to process on its own.
Listen to 'Hush' HERE.
'MEAWW's Basement Tapes' is a weekly column that shines a spotlight on undiscovered/underrated musical gems.