Leaving February, the month of love and affection, we decent back into the regular patterns of our lives. Those patterns include deep themes like betrayal and contempt in our relationships, from work to friendship to romantic involvement. The beauty of art is that it allows a healthy space for us to express our sorrows and frustrations. But art and music specifically is not an individual experience; rather, it is a dialogue between composer and listener. In this, music allows us as listeners to empathize with the plight of others. This empathy is at the center of two recent releases: Mielo’s “Scar,” featuring Cailee Rae, and Crystal Knives’ “Stranded,” featuring Ivish & Nathan Kay.
In the vulnerability of the digital age, you can put your trust in the wrong people. When they turn, you face the only option of removing these toxic people from your life. Both these artists address this difficult reality and the ultimate rewards of breaking free.
“Scar” is a hollow, beating sound that accurately describes what it’s like when you’ve been “left broken” by someone who knew “how to bring [you] down.” Inspired by the difficulty of being vulnerable as an artist in an industry that can quickly take advantage of aspirational young people, the track is a homage to anyone who’s been deceived in the path towards their dreams. Betrayal by the people you chose as family is often a deeper cut than that of the family you’re born into. The raw emotion of that deadening state, in which you often don’t know where to turn, is the heart and soul of this effervescent track. That deep trauma can, however, serve as a catalyst of creative work and that’s what happened here: “Scar” is a thoughtful, painfully honest embodiment of a victim, trying to work past their betrayal.
“Stranded,” on the other hand, opens with some bright horns and a lot of pomp and circumstance. A masterful interweaving of jazz and electronica, the track picks up on the themes from “Scar” about a toxic personal relationship. But while the former evokes the hallowed-out state of the victim, Crystal Knives creates a song that moves towards acceptance that enough is enough, and more importantly, that you are enough. The triumphant trumpets remind us that leaving that toxic person may just be a new beginning.
Both of these young, Midwestern artists have gained noticed recently from the press and supporting acts. Though they have different styles, what is clear is that both artists have a profound ability to tackle difficult human issues with honesty and grace. I’m excited to see where they go next.