Mega Bog – End of Everything
In a dozen years and half as many albums, Erin Birgy has never made anything close to a straightforward pop record. Her clever, unpredictable songs wind through narratives told from a number of different perspectives, set to odd rhythmic syncopations and lushly disorienting arrangements that draw from jazz, bossa nova, post-rock and various other sounds beyond the easy reference points of rock, folk or otherwise. Her songs leave a strong impression on first listen, written not as earworms but something more indelible, unforgettable.
None of which changes on her seventh Mega Bog album, End of Everything, but for once Birgy embraces a directness and simplicity that sometimes is cast aside in favor of taking the path of least predictability. From the opening moments of leadoff track “Cactus People,” the intricate, melodic tangles of 2021’s Life, and Another have given way to dreamier, more spacious three-chord synth-pop, elegant and immersive. It’s as perfect a pop song as she’s ever written, an aching intersection of romance and anguish, Birgy pleading during its chorus, “Please don’t leave tonight/I’ll never be able to plan this right.”
End of Everything isn’t necessarily her simplest album, though it’s in large part her most direct—a byproduct of a period of personal trauma that colors its atmosphere a darker shade of apocalyptic. “[A] lot of Bog music, historically—and even in this case—comes from a place of desperation,” Birgy said in a recent interview, explaining an incident in which a stranger entered her house and assaulted her before the recording of the album. “I didn’t cope very well with it, and it felt like the culmination of all the fear.” The endtimes pall draped over the album is distinct from that of, for instance, a metal album; Birgy isn’t describing a charred landscape so much as trying to find a kind of peace within it. In the bright flashes of “Love Is,” empathy is the most potent tool at her disposal: “I don’t blame you/You only did what you had to do/And I just wish that I could have seen it coming.” In “The Clown,” it’s the defense mechanisms she builds up around herself, as when she scares off a young man by talking about “beheading young men.”
As Birgy attempts to work through a world seemingly getting worse by the day while working through her own healing from personal trauma, she depicts this new reality in varying shades of neon. “Don’t Doom Me Now” juxtaposes peculiar vocal effects with warm synth tones and squealing electric guitar leads, as Miami Vice as she’s ever sounded. There’s a more dramatic build and a haunting aesthetic to match on “All and Everything,” climaxing in the release of a furious scream, Birgy indulging in a powerful moment of catharsis. And what initially seems like a fairly low-key ballad on “Anthropocene” is treated to a dynamic vocal performance from Birgy, along with a change in tempo and a recurrent streak of emotionally aching saxophone.
On End of Everything‘s penultimate song, “Complete Book of Roses,” Birgy makes a return of sorts to the sort of cubist art-pop that’s defined much of her career, yet with even more dramatic ’80s-style production flair—particularly in its over-the-top guitar riffs. That its slow-burning but frequently climaxing air of tension and panic fits in so comfortably alongside the more streamlined pop moments here speaks to her command of both songwriting and aesthetic alike—disparate but somehow complementary pieces fitting into the same overall arc. Whether it be simple and immediate or anxious and frantic, Birgy is drawing meaning and beauty from circumstances that would have us turn our heads away from either.
Label: Mexican Summer
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.