Bleak Mystique steps out of her comfort zone with a new EP
Three surreal, color-blocked faces in flesh, sun and earth tones gaze from the sides of the space in which they are confined. Looking lazily upwards, their eyes are fixed on a small crying heart. Tearful Heart, Bleak Mystique’s logo, has become synonymous with the band’s name and feel. Taking center stage on the cover of their latest EP, with the band’s name elegantly levitating above, it’s obvious that Bleak Mystique is back with another handful of songs to pique any listener’s interest.
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The only mystique left then are the on-screen caricatures. What are they thinking as they stare contemplatively at the logo? Are they looking for sounds to stimulate their minds or stories that will satisfy their appetite for vulnerable emotions? The answer lies in the six titles they invite you to listen to and discover.
Bleak Mystique’s self-titled EP, out September 30, is an exploration through the power of storytelling and honesty in songwriting, as well as the band’s musical abilities. Each track offers its own personality with guitar riffs that speak to the mood of the lyrics and bass lines that make everyone’s heart beat faster. Even with a clear distinction from song to song, the EP offers cohesion with a trail of sound devices littered throughout.
The EP features a variety of tones, allowing the listener to enter the song and experience its meanings much like entering different rooms. The opening track “Something I Can’t Do” emits a dampness, drenched in the pain of loss and regret through its heavy rhythm section and jagged guitar riffs. The fragility of the guitar and vocals in the chorus brings a breath of fresh air to the song’s lungs, juxtaposing the overall darkness and exposing the vulnerability that lies at its heart.
With a final scream from the opening track’s main riff, the song comes to a close before it has a chance to explode into utter chaos and self-loathing. Immediately you are pushed to the next track, a much brighter setting with a cool breeze wafting through, a nostalgic scent carried with it. “Treading Water”, the only single released from the EP, greatly juxtaposes the first track with its twangy guitars and jangly piano. But like the first track and the others that follow, the drums continue to give the song vitality while the bass gives a sense of depth and intrigue in its creativity.
“Treading Water” offers ease in its spacious, flowing vocals as it unfolds a tale of lost love, while bringing excitement to the climax with high-pitched vocal screams. The song’s playfulness in the background vocals and country influences is unlike anything the band has released, showing their ability to step into and make different genres their own.
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Bursting in a cacophonous explosion of sound, the interlude shatters the album with an instrumental scream that sets it up for the final two tracks. After the interlude, “Tantrum” restores the structure of the project, while retaining the album’s ability to tactfully contrast musical ideas. The steady bassline and laid-back vocals in the verses are reversed with the grungier feel of the chorus. The EP’s final song, “Spray Paint Your Heart,” brings synth into the mix with a funky groove that evokes the feeling of being underwater, watching bubbles float to the surface, and sunlight. shine through.
The song grabs attention with its straightforward verses and builds anticipation by holding the chorus in. It’s worth the wait when sweet guitar melody, a satisfying descending bass range, and seductive vocal inflections arrive for the chorus.
Thematically, Bleak Mystique has written an EP that draws a soft line between the heartbreaking emotions of anxiety and self-consciousness that come from grief and disdain for the pressures of the working world as a struggling artist. Two very different ideas, but ones that tap into listeners’ desires and vulnerabilities in a way that relates to any palette that chooses to flavor it.
With a climactic end to the album and a pause before the final note is played in unison, the listener is led to believe that the EP is at its conclusion. A crooning bassoon, soaring organ and delicate dancing to guitar strings bring the EP to its true conclusion. The minute-and-a-half-long instrumental outro places you in a soothing dreamscape evoking the feeling that the EP’s musical virtuosity and handcrafted storytelling were just a dream, another dream that will play again and again in your head.
All photos courtesy of Peter Vo via Bleak Mystique