A world of lush, ethereal soundscapes, reminding us that it’s still possible to explore new worlds in the modern age of music
In 2015, Briana Marela took off for Iceland to record her third album All Around Us. While the inspiration of Reykjavik and the music of Bjork are evident, the album is a beautiful contemplation on emotional honesty. Its messages are clear and concise, while the arrangements are emotionally soulful and filled to the brim with a translucent beauty, beckoning us to come and see rather than turn a blind eye.
Marela’s brand of dreamy indie pop is probably one of the most pleasantly uplifting styles of music to listen to, in a world saturated by tired clichés and base pop songs. Her lyrics speak directly from the heart and to the heart; many of the songs on All Around Us are about emotional growing pains. In “Friend Tonight”, she asks the questions that most people lie in bed ridden with anxiety: “Will we always be so young?/Would you be my only one?” while also boldly asserting “But don’t come back to my bed tonight/I just need a friend tonight.” It’s a relatable sentiment and she’s not pushy about it, nor is she obnoxiously affirming some sort of optimistic cliché.
She’s remarkably honest with her lyrical statements whilst simultaneously enveloping us in a deep ocean of musical arrangement. Harmonious instrumentation washes over the listener so fluidly, ebbing and flowing, gently to remind us that just because life is hard and harsh, that it can also be soft and soothing. This is a quality that is continuous throughout the record, but one of its most prominent moments is in “Dani” where the music and lyrics combine beautifully as Marela reminds Dani that although “She lost herself” and “She loves him still” that she is not alone: “Dani, you’re not the only one lonely tonight.”
There is nothing disingenuous about the album, and the arrangements throughout are very well laid out. It’s a very honest album that still feels free to live in a dreamy and ethereal soundscape. Perhaps it is because the songs are so emotionally distinct that the overall theme is so poignant. Marela isn’t exactly telling us anything new, nor are most artists for that matter, but she is telling it without pretension. In “I Don’t Belong to You”, she opens with “He says he loves me but he is afraid/what does love mean in this day and age/To me it’s a moment where we resonate at two frequencies close in phase” and goes on to let “him” go free because “We can do anything/it’s not a competition/everyone has music within them.”
Over the last decade or so, it is safe to say that modern music has taken quite a few twists and turns. While there is an abundant number of musicians creating music, not many of them appear to be getting the same kind of exposure as older group reformations seem to be getting. It’s stunning to me that an artist like Briana Marela is virtually unheard of, while it’s difficult to find anyone who DOESN’T know that At The Drive-In have reformed. I wonder if we, as appreciators of music, have done this to ourselves. Have we become so jaded that we no longer believe anyone is capable of making meaningful music anymore? Or do we just chase after artists that punch us in the chest and grab our attention, only to ignore the many budding artists who will ultimately shape music towards its future paradigms?
I don’t have the answers, but I can only hope that Marela’s music continues to grow and expand to draw in the audience she so definitely deserves.