Romy : Mid Air

Romy Mid Air review

Emotional catharsis through music might seem like a tired trope, but it’s been a tried-and-true form of songwriting for centuries. Entire genres have been centered around expressing yourself through verse and performance, but that belies the fact that most of pop music’s treasured troubadours achieved that status because they wrote songs reflecting their inner turmoil. People like art that both encourages feelings and connects them with others who share similar feelings. The more personal it is to the artist’s experiences, the better.

Suffice to say, I was bowled over by the intimacy and transparency of Mid Air, the debut solo album by Romy Madley-Croft. The lead singer and guitarist of The xx has delivered a powerful collection of personal reflections that are downright romantic. Eschewing the mumbled enunciation and cryptic lyrics of her award-winning trio, she opts for direct pronouncements of melancholy, angst, and affection.

Her sincerity is captivating and honest. It’s all heart and no hedonism. When set against the ‘90s house sensibilities powering the actual music, it’s a delicious juxtaposition for the ears. But instead of the over-the-top sensuality of other celebrated dance-pop albums of 2023, we get sweet coos about lovers and loved ones while a four-on-the-floor kick drum compels you to dance. It’s as if Donna Lewis, Dido, and Goldfrapp wrote an album of thoughtful love songs inspired solely by Detroit house.

Primarily split between 1 a.m. bangers and 4 a.m. downtempo, the album is made for the dancefloor. All the familiar house elements are present, complete with liquid bass grooves, sparkling synths, and clean vocals. Yet, it also features the sort of genre reinterpretation The xx explored across three albums, including a propensity for curious breaks, tonal shifts, and dalliances with dynamics. This is fun, energetic music packed with impeccable production, the only real quibble being that a little more grit every once in a while might have complemented the thematic heft of the lyrics.

Much like her bandmate Oliver Sim’s 2022 solo project, Hideous Bastard, Romy actively processes her maturation as a person and the events of her world through her songs. She has full conversations with romantic partners about their feelings, the direction of the relationship, and what they want out of life. More importantly, she also discuss her coming out as a lesbian with friends and family, and despite her fears that they’ll reject her, she finds that they love and support her. 

Mid Air is a generous mix of introspection and ebullience that’s thoroughly refreshing, especially on standout songs such as “Weightless,” the triptych of “Strong,” “Twice,” and “Did I,” and penultimate song “Enjoy Your Life.” As a long-time fan of The xx, it’s been a joy to watch social media clips of Romy playing these songs live, extending them for the dancefloor, and dancing with her partner. She seems happy and full of life, and Mid Air only makes that joy brighter.  


Label: Young

Year: 2023

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