Miya Folick : ROACH
Artistic ambition is an unqualified good. Music needs creators that stretch, bend, and otherwise distend the norms in search of new ideas and manifestations. Intentional manipulation is how old genres get reinvented and new ones birthed. Such essential work requires the active input of talented people who know their history yet purposefully seek out ways to fashion fresh formats that meet and exceed their vision. Miya Folick is an artist who seemingly refuses to sit still and persistently looks forward, which should send any listener’s optimism into overdrive.
On her sophomore full-length, ROACH, she wraps a slinky brand of electro-pop around a crunchy alt-rock core to maximum effect—like Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Elle Goulding, and Tove Lo having a conversation about agency in a faltering relationship. Released via Nettwerk, the 13-track album centers her cooing alto that can easily slide into falsetto when the moment requires it. Sitting at the curious intersection of urgent, pleading and reflective, her voice feels personal without being indulgent. Such vocal wizardry makes for a firm foundation she can build upon and then turn inside out as the project progresses.
The songs tell tales of twenty-somethings being in love, falling out of love, and the emotional stupidity that occurs in between. Yes, this is well-trod territory for centuries of popular verse, but Folick keeps it interesting because of her openness and relative humility. Her lyrics slide easily between matter-of-fact and rich metaphor with an impressive ease belying her relative youth, especially on standout tracks such as “Get Out of My House,” “Tetherball,” “So Clear,” and “Shortstop.”
Musically, the album relies upon a deft fusion of tremendous synth-fueled production magic and a thunderous rhythm section. From Folick’s quietest whispers to her loudest bellows, Sam Wilkes on the bass and Sam KS on drums create powerful grooves that enchant the ears. The buzzy guitar work of Greg Uhlmann definitely lends the project its core ‘90s energy, mercifully ejecting angst in favor of embracing passion. Through it all, Folick and her band of co-producers (including Max Hershenow, Mike Malchicoff, and Gabe Wax) weave quirky electronic elements that provide the necessary off-kilter edge keeping the music from tipping into the conventional.
ROACH is diaristic and bold in the best possible way. Miya Folick revels in sexual liberation, but she conveys a welcome sensitivity that showcases her layered approach to songwriting. She makes no bones about her romantic confusion, but she also doesn’t apologize for how she feels, even at her most self-deprecating. Lyrical prowess combined with an iconoclastic twist on electro-rock reveals an artist with sincere determination, eager to make her own way on her own terms.