Misha, a band that started out as a duo, is now under the sole belonging of multi-instrumentalist John Chao following his split with creative and romantic partner Ashley Yao. For most people struggling with heartbreak, it’s only natural to fixate on the past, fearing to move on, but Chao and the attitudes he’s acquired from his Buddhist upbringing leave him focused on the future and the good that can come from bad. This principle stands as the framework for Misha’s new album All We Will Become, a work focused on renewal and the set of emotions that come with it.
When Chao called his new album “pop with unexpected influences”, he pretty much hit the nail on the head. All We Will Become is filled with pop anthems and the correlating triumphant choruses that come with them. The “influences” he alludes to are very important pieces of the work too, though. A lot of the album sounds like synthpop without the synths, an album colored by the creative choice in instrumentation, furthering his implementation of other styles and regional sounds.
With this much variety on an album, it might seem difficult to compare one song to another, but in actuality some of these tracks tower above the others, creating a tough standard to live up to for the whole album. “You” is the runaway track of the album, drawing in influences from Bollywood and indie rock which creates a unique sound while still fitting nicely into modern pop’s grasp. It sounds like the musical equivalence of youth and the accompanying awe at the world. Further down the tracklist and walking the line between being overly campy and optimistic sounding is “Everywhere and Everything”, another success that declares Chao’s unwillingness to give up. The song manages to stay mostly grounded from the stratosphere of sentimentality by focusing on “I” instead of “we” or “you”, seeming more like a revelation than a piece from a self-love advice column. The track sounds weary in some ways (mainly the vocals), but after every declaration that Yao will “keep on trying”, Yao reinvigorates the track. It’s a good example of his messages of renewal and his overall love of the world.
The album is not without flaws though, and some of them are very hard to get past. While having a really pretty melody, “Lion Bark (Luminous)” is kind of a mess in terms of production and its background music. Similarly, “We’re Gonna Have It Out (Modern Love)” features a backing line that would sound more at home playing in a Mario Kart track than in a pop track. There are a lot of balance issues on the album as well. The only part of the music that is clear throughout are the drums. Sometimes I had to strain to hear the other parts clearly, particularly the musically sparse “Optical Illusions of the Heart”. This problem also plagues the vocals due to Ronit Granot’s sleepy vocal performance, one that seldom rose above a whisper. There’s a time and a place for this type of technique, but this doesn’t seem to be it as some of the triumphant moments on the album are weighed down by an apparent lack of enthusiasm and volume, especially on the chorus of songs like “Limelight”.
At the end of the day, All We Will Become, remains a very genuine example of pop thanks to Chao’s attitude in the face of adversity. His hope for the future can be pretty infectious, and it really seeps through some of his best songs, creating some beautifully honest moments on the album. Unfortunately, there’s just too much on the album you need to overlook to get to them.