I first heard Miya Folick a few months ago, in July, when NPR’s “All Songs Considered” featured her song “Talking With Strangers.” I heard it through headphones on the subway, and as some music has the ability to do, it colored the entire experience of the train ride—down to the look of the train car and the faces of the other passengers. Since then, the song’s uncomplicated chorus, “How did I miss this message when I was young?” has popped into my head more than a few times.
LA-based Folick’s entire EP, Strange Darling, possesses that kind of magic, the power to fully immerse using only simple sounds and muted compositions. Comprised of six songs using breezy combinations of acoustic and electric guitar, a guitar slide, drums, a Casio keyboard, and Folick’s lush voice, she haunts in light touches. Like the singer-songwriter indie rock of Sharon Van Etten, whose voice Folick’s resembles, she paints vivid stories in which the protagonist is always emotion, but whose tone is never syrupy. Next to sparse, low-key instrumentals, her warm, vulnerable voice carries simple and sliding melodies.
Like her musical compositions, Folick’s themes tend towards smaller, more intimate scopes. She wrote the EP quickly, in a state of uncertain love, and the joyfulness, anxiety, and urgency of that is apparent. In a couple places, Folick refers to the act of writing the songs: “I Got Drunk” begins, “Guess I’ll write you a love song / Cause I got drunk and told you how I really feel about you,” and “Strangest Thing” asks, “Will I want you by the end of this song?” The result of her letting us in on the writing is a confessional feeling, as if she has something to get off her chest. It also lends an impression of authenticity.
That feeling is echoed in her odd and unsentimental expressions of love. In the slightly harder-edged “What I Have To,” whose desperate refrain says, “I do what I have to / I do it to have you,” she sings, “I somehow make you smile / And it’s like I won a prize at the carnival.” It’s the smallest act, making someone smile, and yet the specificity of its imagery here makes the unrequited feelings that it implies colossally heartbreaking.
Despite the vulnerability, though, there’s an assertive grittiness in Folick’s music—more apparent in some songs than in others, but present throughout. In the EP’s final song, “Oceans,” she begins singing delicately over a reverb-heavy guitar line reminiscent of the haunting one in Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang,” but when the drums kick in, her tone picks up force and venom. “You think I was born to be / A tender rose beneath an oak tree / But I never loved roses,” she says, warning us that she is not quite as delicate as the previous songs may have led us to believe. After all, isn’t admitting weakness a valiantly strong act? When it comes to exploring that dichotomy, Strange Darling is near perfect.