Low-key Likes: unwinding indie

By Louis Chavey (’22) | May 10, 2021

Album cover for Have Fun by Sipper. Art by Nicole Schubert (’22).

Welcome to the last issue of this year’s Low-Key Likes, a digestible music column featuring a relatively unknown song, artist, and album along with some needed context, a short description, and lastly, what makes them each worth a listen, respectively. Summer is almost here, and while some energetic, upbeat tracks are definitely needed, an underrated part of the whole summer music listening experience is softer, more relaxing tracks as the hot days give way to cool nights. This issue we’ll be looking at “Mum & Dad” by Maiden China, the artist Sipper, and the EP Madhouse by Matt Maltese.

“Mum & Dad” is a single released in November 2019 by the Australian duo Maiden China. Featuring a swaying yet undeniably steadfast backbeat and light, plucky guitar lines, the instrumental rounds out to be firmly upbeat. With a closer listen, however, you’ll find tinges of longing that progressively become more noticeable; even the lyrics and the title hint at bitterness behind the dismissive, superficially carefree talk of not liking their ex’s parents in the first place. This growing sense of compunction—embellished by lurching, ad libbing choruses and springy yet bittersweet piano riffs—culminates in a beat switch during the outro. “Mum & Dad” offers a bright atmosphere to complement the long summer days while also providing undertones of incompleteness that leave you yearning and excited for the next day to come.

Sipper is a New York-based one-man indie band that pairs simple, authentic instrumentation with an overwhelming sense of coziness. Although Sipper has released many projects and singles, especially during quarantine, these two main qualities are most evident in the 2020 album Have Fun. The songs feature simple, guitar-heavy instrumentals and subdued yet emotionally potent vocals—often background vocals from an uncredited female voice lend a depth that is typically only found on duets. What Sipper lacks in catchy vocal lines he makes up for in emotional authenticity. Something about the almost bare, lo-fi instrumentation establishes an intimate bond with the listener: the seeming spontaneity allows the listener to really feel the raw, direct creativity that is generally associated with personal and interesting art. The primary example of this would be “Cry” off of Have Fun. Nothing about the instrumentation, vocal melodies, or lyricism screams groundbreaking or amazing, but Sipper saturates his voice with so much emotion that the song gives me goosebumps to this day. Sipper’s artistic authenticity can hopefully make way for you to build your own spontaneous moments this summer.

Madhouse is an EP released in August 2020 by Matt Maltese. There’s a certain pervasive sense of melancholia with dashes of existential angst; however, by no means do these sentiments create a boring atmosphere: on the contrary, small ear worms, whether it be a small repetition of the chorus in the background or a subtle, soaring guitar riff, permeate the record. Much like an early Rex Orange County, Matt Maltese manages to combine plaintive, searching lyrics with dry, self-aware wit. The title track “madhouse” is a prime example of this duality within the EP. Singing in a soft voice, Matt Maltese discusses not feeling understood while still maintaining his characteristic wit describing “Live, Laugh, Love” signs on his famed mental madhouse of inescapable isolation. Underneath all these sad lyrics, however, synths interject at a quirky, charmingly off-beat pace, serving to move the song forward. With its hints of melancholia and purposelessness, Madhouse is a great EP to soundtrack a contemplative drive home.

Categories: Entertainment

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