More surprising things have happened in the great quarantine of 2020-21, than a 19-year-old teaching himself the guitar and releasing a debut EP. But, when the EP in question is Songs (for you) by Jalandhar-based singer-songwriter, AM.E.R aka Amer Khosla, it is worth talking about. The 6-track project arrived on June 25, marking the budding musician’s first full-fledged release since the previously released singles, ‘No Story’ and ‘Doing Fine’. But this EP, he says, “Is vastly different from both.”
Described by the artist as “mostly indie-pop with some strong dream pop elements”, the album is ripe with melancholic vocals, groovy bass hooks and definitive guitar riffs. If coming-of-age-in-the-pandemic were a genre (which, all things considered by now, it should be), Songs (for you) would fit right in. Thematically, the tracks explore “subversive themes” and reflect the confusion and chaos familiar to every young person caught in the throes of this pandemic. Surely, the journey between NYU and Jalandhar, what could have been and the stasis that followed allowed for moments of reflection. Every track on the EP is an intentional expression of those moments.
Kicking things off and setting the tone for the rest of the EP is ‘tides’, sardonically titled by Amer, ‘how messy things have been’. Echoing the sentiments of many today, the track features a confession from Khosla. A voice sample that goes, “This was what I was really waiting for, you know? This was the year, and everything was going to go right, and I was going to be doing big things and making big friends. And I guess what really hurts me is that I need all that because somewhere inside, I’m empty I guess?” Dreamy and backed by moody guitars and evocative percussion, ‘tides’ is realisation and acceptance delivered in a mellow, indie-pop package.
The second track, ‘sometimes’, follows suit sonically. It describes confusion in a relationship, or as Amer pinpoints, “a stupid loop”. The artist’s vocals take centre stage on this one—a rich and moody tone reminiscent of indie-rock’s favourite boy, Alex Turner. And while it speaks of a relationship, it runs with the overarching theme of the EP—not having all the answers. ‘sometimes’ offers a steady groove, making way for the liveliest song on the EP, ‘virtual love’.
For anyone who is a fan of the recent disco-pop renaissance, ‘virtual love’, is sure to be a front-runner. A bass-heavy retro synth-pop track, this track details love and dating in the virtual world. Again, a phenomenon all too familiar to many in these pandemic times. The song runs with the idea of uncertainty, but has fun with it, making it the easiest tune on this EP to groove to.
The track that follows, ‘so high’, picks up where ‘virtual love’ ends, using similar elements to paint a melancholic soundscape, building a bridge to the most emotional track on the EP. The fifth track, ‘sonder’, makes a not-so-subtle departure from its predecessors. With magnetic guitar work and rich vocals, this track offers a sound that strangely rings true of early Radiohead. If Songs (for you) is a coming-of-age album, then ‘sonder’ is the angsty pit stop we all make on our way to stability.
Tying it all together is the final track of the EP, ‘autumn leaves’. A combination of strong build-ups and ambient spaces, this tune is the epitome of reflection, taking its time while penning down final thoughts.
Speaking about putting together an album in lockdown, AM.E.R says, “It was immensely creative for me, but I also feel like it was weirdly unrealistic. Creating in the lockdown has skewed my expectations of what creativity looks like in a regularly functioning world.” Luckily, the artist has intelligently woven that dissonance into this EP.
While each track on the album is unique in flavour and sound, Amer teeters the line between independence and cohesion with skill. On Songs (for you), the 19-year-old shows prowess and intuition, delivering an EP that could stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the year’s biggest indie releases. This one zooms past the simple borders of a “debut”.
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