November 29, 2020

Wellington-based singer MADIE tackles mental health awareness on her emotive debut EP.

The EP starts on a beautiful chord progression with what sounds like to me: quite an irregular time signature based on an I – IV chord progression. It creates a sense of hope within a place of uncertainty. Out of thin air appears a voice dripping with smoky sensual undertones and pain and heartache. There’s something to be said about a voice that makes you stop what you’re doing in order to listen; where the vocal delivery and timbre takes precedent to the lyrics. I had to listen to each song more than once because of this. I am enamoured with the amount of depth within Madie’s vocals and within her lyrics. I am really excited to hear more!

Not Alone; Like mentioned above, I found it hard to focus on the lyrics throughout the first listen because I was too focussed on Madie’s captivating vocal delivery. A strong advocate for mental health, Madie’s lyrics seem to be riddled with painful subtext where she sings from a place pure, true and incredibly raw. Vulnerability is evident in lyrics such as ‘now you’re not alone, I’m reaching out to show support… till the voices quieten up’ which I think is so important as a vocalist. Music is a language and I really must applaud Madie for being able to communicate such heavy subject matter in a refreshingly striking way. I hear elements of Ladi6 in this track but only if she had an astral love child with Amy Winehouse.

Whisper Lies; starts immediately. Generally speaking, I personally find such song entrances abrupt and unsettling. Being unable to grasp a groove of a song with an introduction, the listener is propelled into an alternate, unexpecting cosmos. However, within the context and subject matter of the EP heavily focussing on advocating for mental health, I think it’s a clever artistic decision that has been executed flawlessly. The song in itself seems to be quite contradictory amongst the lyrics with the instrumental giving strong elements of reggae and ska rhythms; which (personally) reminds me of sunshine and happiness. However, with elements of jazz chord progression and modal scales means that the listener is acutely aware that there is ‘more than meets the eye’, so to speak. Rich amber harmonies within the chorus support Madie’s voice appropriately like velvet. 

The mix of the entire song itself sits really nicely. It’s a nice change to have a vocalist’s voice at the front of the mix so that the lyrics can be clearly heard (and that’s some T). ‘My skin feels like it suffocates me, temptation to open it, call me crazy. Social gatherings where everybody hates me, nobody hates me… what if they hate me?’ is such a poignant line referencing the feeling of anxiety. Adorned with a melody that has a mind of its own, Whisper lies is a multifaceted work which leaves the listener finding something new in each different listen. I must say that my favourite part of the song has to be around 1:52 where the song has a break down in half time. So delicious!

Sanity; much like Whisper Lies, the track starts immediately with the lyrics ‘my mind keeps getting away from me. Every time I reach out to it – it slips away from me’. Cradled underneath a melancholic bassline, goosebumps can’t help but kiss my arms and fingers. Featuring more breathtaking vocal delivery it would be hard to disagree that Madie is about to shake up the industry. At the 1:00m mark slides in the chords. Technical jazz elements are obvious within the instrumental and Madie takes her voice to unsuspecting notes further proving how far away removed she is from the pop realm. Madie sits perfectly within the world of soul and I have a feeling she’s not going to be leaving any time soon. A mixed belt tonality allows Madie’s voice to fluently float amongst a competing guitar. Perhaps an ode to a mind competing with one’s self? It is difficult to assess whether this was an intentional decision or whether it was subconsciously… my mouth has been open throughout this whole song (so far) like those creepy moving clowns at fairs. The thing I really love about Madie’s songwriting is that each phrase is a surprising shift away to what I would have expected; constantly surprising and wonderfully executed. The way that the instrumental that effortlessly transcends through each feeling I could possibly conjure up from a place of pain and hope… is mind-blowing.

Please Stay; starts with haunting vocals stacked with tantalising harmonies and a lack of overproduction within vocals. I like that. There’s grit in Madie’s voice which slightly resembles Tash Sultana in the way that the song progresses and the guitar riffs underneath. I can’t help but see this song as an ode to the popularity of ‘whisper’ singing (coveted by many but blew up thanks to Billie Eilish). I think it is fair to say that Madie is able to do this in a way where the intention is not lost in regards to the storytelling of the overall song. I hear a plea for someone to ‘please stay’ in a time of despair. I hear the pain. I can hear desperation. I can hear deep undying and unconditional love for those close. It’s hard to not indulge in those motives throughout each listen. Madie shows another facet of her hugely powerful instrument the way she interchanges between her chest voice and head voice. I love the lack of overproduced vocals and very slight harmonies. Sure, there is reverb and echo used but again, it’s minimal and really tasteful.

‘THE MODERN MIND’ is a four-track soul EP, with a major focus on mental health and the different aspects of it. Speaking on the EP Madie explains, “there is this huge stigma around mental health, especially in New Zealand where we think things are better left unsaid and it’s when those things are left unsaid or not dealt with properly that lead to the most unfortunate endings. I myself have known far too many people who have been victims of this. I want my EP and my writing about my own mental health experiences to help break the stigma and encourage people to speak out about it because it is a healthy thing to do.” 

50% of all streaming royalties will be going to the New Zealand Mental Health Foundation to raise money for an important cause. This EP features the talent of Wellington artists such as Keith Aaron, Moana Leota, Hunter Davison and Rupert McRae.

Overall, ‘THE MODERN MIND’ a beautifully executed piece of work. Featuring a plethora of spine-tingling vocals and a delivery that is as smoky and smooth as it is fresh. Madie’s songwriting shows her old soul and past experiences. Her vulnerability and love really shine through and I can really hear that Madie put every inch of her mind, body and soul into ‘THE MODERN MIND’. I can’t wait to hear more of Madie and what she has to offer!

You can listen to the EP below.

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