Sensual, dreamlike, jazz-inflected and ever so slightly unreachable, this second album from Toronto-based lap-topper Milosh charts the aftermath of a romantic break-up in gorgeously soft-focus style. Like the artist’s first album, 2004’s You Make Me Feel, this follow-up is a one-man project, entirely written, performed and produced by the one-named Canadian. Yet unlike that upbeat record, Meme charts the negative side of interpersonal relationships with songs about insomnia, meaningless one-night stands, wandering aimlessly and, finally, picking up the pieces and going on.
The disc opens with a song about the relationship’s implosion, nearly a minute of minimalist pop and crackle introducing the plaintive “It’s Over.” There’s a shimmer of something like steel drums, then the cool plunge of wordless vocals. The singing, when it comes, is androgynous and infinitely sweet, repeating the phrase “It’s over. It’s over/It’s over again” in calming waves. “Falling Away”, which follows, is even more elusively beautiful with its rising piano chords, and jazz-toned vocals fraying into electronic blips. The singing is airy and soap-bubble delicate in the higher registers, grittier and more soulful at the low-end. Organic-sounding bass drum and snare pops push the track forward, though they are subtly intercut with abstract clicks and blips. The cut pulls to a halt two minutes in, dipping down to just a pulse of faint percussion. Then a modest explosion of careening notes ensues briefly ruptures the cut’s bossa nova light intonations. Throughout the piece you feel like you are moving underwater, cool, smooth, enveloped by synthetic tones, but anchored by the real loveliness of Milosh’s voice.
“You Fill Me” is the most sexual of all the cuts, starting with just a few Rhodes tones picked out of darkness, a syncopated thud-thud of percussion punctuated by airy scratches. A speaking voice is buried under the mix, unintelligible and barely there, except for the sigh that introduces the vocals. The song is mostly wordless, with Milosh stretching slipping slides and multiple tones into long consonantless phrases that float gauzily over skeletal drums. The lyrics, when they move to the front, are frankly erotic, as in “You’re thrusting up inside me/pushing my skin/I want you to fill me/I want to fill you/...touch your skin.” You have a sense of moving hypnotically through emotional space, anchored only by the pounding of blood in your ears, and the effect is powerfully sexy.
The album’s story arc moves in a positive direction, with the early songs more desolate and the later ones cautiously optimistic. As a result, many of the most beautiful tracks come late in the game. “This City” is a highlight, for instance, with its pinging synth lines, its slow rising trumpet calls and its lovely, feather light singing that shatters Max Headroom-like into crystalline fragments. The drumming is frantic under the smooth surface, with sixteenth-note spats of staccato pulling up short, then stuttering to life again. It sounds like nothing so much as the percussive anxiety of daily life, overlaid with occasional transcendance. “My Life” is even better, full of long, reverberating guitar tones that hang jaggedly in the space between the choruses. And, “To Run Away” caps off the journey from rejection to renewed hope with its buoyant chorus of “Come on…let’s run far away/From those things that we do every day.”
You would think that, given Meme‘s downbeat subject matter, it might be depressing. Surprisingly, the album works in the opposite way, its series of sad songs gradually lifting you up and away. These are beautiful undulating grooves shot through with sudden moments of clarity—and well worth checking out even if you’re happily in a relationship.