In these days of Pandemia, quarantine, and self-isolation, it’s easy to let your thoughts wander, whether into mania or into depression. As much as we seem to try to avoid the darker parts of these thoughts, it’s been proven that so-called toxic positivity does more harm than good, so no, I will not keep calm nor carry on, not right now, anyways. Such is the modus operandi for grabyourface, a new face in the “nu goth” movement who blends post-punk, sadcore, and electronic music to give an eerily captivating soundtrack to her gloomy, contemplative words on her debut album sea.
Despite its dark beauty and gripping backdrops, this is an album which one should check themselves before taking in. As the artist herself says, this is the product of “some fucked up shit that happened, but I will not thank that for happening.” For those ready to let this record wash over them, they will be greeted by an amalgam of post-punk, dark pop, and a healthy dose of rhythmic vocal delivery to boot.
“sombre” starts in with an odd mix; that is, trap hi-hats under post-punk guitar lines. It should be noted that “odd” does not mean “bad,” but it is unexpected. The lyrics are wrenching, with the refrain reading “I can’t fucking breathe, I can’t hear your words,” before commiserating that “if this is reality, then I don’t mind / giving up the fight.” This is not a romanticization or even a dramatization, but putting the words and feelings that so many seem to not understand, or do not wish to understand, in plain English. There’s not wordplay to be had here, the singer just tells it like it is, and how it is is fucking painful.
I could break down every track of the six on “sea,” but they’re all pretty similar in this regard, save for the ambient synth and piano of “somewhere else.” They’re reflective, evocative, and there’s not much in the way of flash or parlor tricks to dress up this release. And for once, I’m really glad that’s the case. grabyourface isn’t trying to turn trauma into triumph with sea, she is putting her all, the good and the bad, into her work, and the result is stark. Whether she talk-sings or almost raps her verses, or vocal melodies double down on the anguish in various refrains, her voice is pained to the point of numbness. There is as much inflection as there needs to be, and that isn’t much, nor does it need to be.
This may be a short release, clocking in around twenty-four minutes, but it is not an easy twenty-four minutes to get through. It may resonate with you on an uncomfortable level, but this record serves as a reminder that, even with the distances between us, which have never felt more real than right now, you are not alone. We are not alone. If you’re in the frame of mind to let it, allow sea to take you in, confront those feelings, dabble in the darkness, and come out the other side of it with a new perspective, or at least an appreciation for the haunting taboos that grabyourface takes on here.
sea is available now via Negative Gain Productions.