Sunday, January 21, 2018

Album Review: Myja - Myja

"The best laid plans of mice and men..."

Planning too far ahead can be a problem, because circumstances chance without notice, and we find ourselves reacting to the unforeseen. In December of 2012, when i was already looking back at that year and organizing my thoughts, I came across a little album that upset the apple cart. It didn't wind up at the very top of my list, because of the newness, but it's one that I've listened to regularly ever since. That album was Adler's (yes, that regrettable Steven Adler) "Back From The Dead". To this day I love that record, and it's almost exclusively because of Jacob Bunton, who did all the heavy lifting on in. So when I saw a note come across my inbox that included his name on a new project, I had to check out what was up.

I'm so glad I did.

Myja is the combination of Bunton and Michael Marquart from A Bad Think (Who?), and it's one of those records that comes out of nowhere to completely upend your expectations. To borrow some phrases that may not be technically accurate, but sound it to me, this combination has given us an album of darkly melodic alternative rock dream pop. That doesn't make sense, so let me explain myself.

Myja is technically branded as a dark alternative rock effort, and that is true. There are riffs, and they are played with that no-treble Seattle sound that can't be happy even if you're covering ABBA. The vocals are similarly soft and worn-out, like a hangover trying to call for help. You could call them a grunge-filtered CSNY. So yes, the record is dark.

But at the same time, Myja is not just a rock band. They wouldn't be interesting if they were. What makes them unique is the way they blend that darkness with overtones of 60s pop and modern dream pop. Listening to these songs, and the way the harmonies and melodies recall CSNY if they were playing a gig at a funeral, it's the sort of slight twist on the form that rewires your brain. I would never have thought of taking songs that recall Fastball or Bruce Springsteen's "Magic" album, and putting them through a whiskey bender, but that's what Myja did. And the shock upon shocks is that it works. Damn does it work.

The absolute highlight of this record, and the one track you need to check out to see if you're going to be as taken as I am with it, is "Just One Kiss". The song starts with a simple rock riff, moves into pure classic-era Fastball, and then does something I hate to spoil, but feel I need to. When the chorus hits, not only is it glorious dark pop, but it more or less borrows from Shania Twain's "Still The One". That sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? I agree with you, in theory, but just listen to it. Trust me. It's one of those moments where you stop in your tracks, ponder what you're hearing, and then proclaim it to be utterly genius.

But that's just one track. The rest of the album is full of melancholic melodic gems. Whether we're talking about "Into Focus" or "Dear Eden", Myja delivers again and again with songs that are the soundtrack to the morning after a night of regrets.

Really, I don't know what else to say about Myja other than this experience is exactly why I write about music. Finding something great is wonderful, but finding something great that you had no idea was coming is even better. With no expectations, with no warning, getting hit this hard by a record sort of takes your breath away. That's what being a fan is all about, and Myja has done that. This album is the first great album of 2018.


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