“It may be another year before this summer ends,” sings Anoushka Maskey on ‘Just Like the Ocean’ from her new EP, Things I Saw In A Dream. The singer-songwriter has built a small but loyal following on her YouTube and Instagram, where she posts covers and some original tunes. “Never had I imagined that my debut body of work would be completely DIY, bedroom produced. I fought with myself for a long time to make peace with the circumstance”, she wrote earlier on Instagram.
In her debut EP produced during the lockdown, she rides atop melodic acoustics and folksy crooning to reflect on every day of the post-pandemic age. The theme works especially well with the stripped back sonic feel of this project, making it all the more intimate, like sitting beside a friend and listening as they jam in their bedroom. Each track is built around just her vocals and an acoustic arrangement (with the ukulele making a guest appearance on one track).
Her vocal delivery is aided by a unique thickness of tone that’s surprising at first, vaguely reminiscent of the register and modulation of confessional pop darlings like Mitski. This chameleonic vox carries the entire project, and she tweaks it superbly to fit the range of emotions felt in each track.
The slow groove on opener ‘Flesh and Bone’ sets the tone for this collection. Picking apart disconnection itself, Maskey spotlights skin hunger and the value of touch; an often underlooked phenomenon of life under quarantine. On the gentle, swinging, folk-tinged ‘Trampoline’, she grapples with change and how life can slip away beneath our feet. Her songwriting makes this the standout track: “Quietly/ We grew so tall our roots struggled to see”.
While most of this release is Maskey responding to her own inner turmoil, she does not forget to zoom out to discuss the bigger picture. ‘Whole World In a Bag’ is a critique of our privilege and a testament to this artist’s empathy. Here, she reflects on the migration crisis spurred by nationwide lockdowns which prompted migrant workers to embark on long and dangerous journeys home on foot. The message feels even more hard-hitting with her lullaby-like delivery. “Not a glimpse of humanity she sees/ Even in death, no dignity”, she sings.
This offering feels just right to help you transition from the smothering and hellish summer we have all had to endure as it rolls into fall and winter. The cascading guitar, rich lyricism and lilting vocals feel timeless in a way that is not often seen in a debut effort.
At the same time, things do seem to peter out by the end, with the record feeling a little bit redundant. By the time the last leg of the EP rolls around, you might feel you’ve heard this before. The rhythmic ukulele on ‘Intervals’, the final track in the collection, is a welcome addition but it only leaves me wondering if there could have been a few more flourishes in the instrumentation, if only for some novelty owing to the collection’s hyper-specific theme.
Ultimately, Things I Saw in A Dream is a poignant pandemic-era balladry, spanning longing, loss and hope all spun around the reassuring chug of a warm guitar. It’s perfect for those days when you just want to sit in your sadness, and works just as well for the ones where you need to be reminded about the power of hope. Listen closely and you might be able to catch snatches of Florence Welch and Taylor Swift in the gentle guitars and delicate melodies.
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