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ISLA - EP Review: Low

21 Sep 2023 // A review by Danica Bryant

As the winter smog begins to lift over Aotearoa, Auckland singer-songwriter ISLA releases her ode to seasonal depression, Low. This is an EP of smooth, delicate dream-folk, from an independent artist backed by her "band of sisters" clearly deeply impassioned by the music just as their frontman is.

The sleepy opening track Such A Shame introduces all the cornerstones of the Low project. Light acoustic guitars, winding vocal melodies and string flourishes flesh out the song over its gentle four-minute runtime, adding dynamics without ever making the song feel overbearing. The instrumental break in the bridge section is particularly expressive. Relaxed drums grounding this section craft a relaxed feel that juxtaposes the pessimistic lyricism in an increasingly interesting way.

Title track Low is spooky and strange, sparse in its production in order to curate the creeping, dull sensation of depression through music. ISLA wails wordless melodies, speaking to pain without actually saying a word. It's brief, but brutal. This same energy is echoed on closer Overthinking, developing these themes into wider, more expansive instrumentals that soar through the longer runtime. The piano-led Better combines shuddering dark instrumentals with dreamy vocals, operating again in contrast that allows the song to unveil more meaning in its lyrics with each listen.

Standout song Mustard Skies tackles "climate anxiety" in heartbreakingly honest fashion, imagining a world deteriorating into an apocalypse that feels all too plausible today. "They took it all, it was never enough", she sighs, noting the detached resignation many of us also feel towards the topic. Certain lines feel reminiscent of Matt Maltese's cult classic track 'Til The World Caves In, but this inspiration is blended subtly into the otherwise unique tune.

Although its themes are as "low" as the EP's title would suggest, the cozy folk style of ISLA's music makes her lyrical material all the more palatable and relatable. Low is a gorgeous collection with a message to share, and a feeling to draw its listeners into, thriving in its intentional sense of discomfort, then release.

 

About ISLA

ISLA is a singer songwriter from Auckland. Her music is most often associated with the word "quirky" which she chooses to take as a compliment.

ISLA's songs are mostly written mostly for the ukulele in a sort of "dear diary" format. Her biggest influences are Dodie, Flight of the Conchords, Kermit the frog and her dad.


Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for ISLA

Releases

Low
Year: 2023
Type: EP

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