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Madi Diaz - History of a Feeling Music Album Reviews

Madi Diaz - History of a Feeling Music Album Reviews
The Nashville-based singer-songwriter’s fifth album breaks through to a spare, unvarnished, and occasionally volatile style of indie rock that feels in step with the newly sharpened edge to her lyricism.

Madi Diaz spends much of her fifth album, History of a Feeling, spent and screaming, in the throes of a breakup, ready to take up the mantle of your messiest friend. The Nashville-based songwriter is crying on the M train, kicking down her ex’s door, and refusing to let the past go. In her own words, she is “not really looking to get healthy,” and at her angriest, as on opener “Rage,”, she has no care for eloquence whatsoever: “Forgive and forget/Fuck you, fuck that.” Never mind the high road: The narrator of these songs is totaled on the low road, a smoking wreck a few miles south of the nearest pit stop.

After a handful of emotionally nondescript early records, History of a Feeling breaks through to a spare, unvarnished, and occasionally volatile style of indie rock that feels in step with the newly sharpened edge to her lyricism. Although inspired by a uniquely chaotic time in its creator’s life—the album chronicles Diaz’s breakup with a partner who also began transitioning around the same time—History of a Feeling is really a record sharply focused on the self, the ways we respond to stress and pain and the passing of time. The breakup acts more as a way for Diaz to map her own emotional landscape: the way she can be cruel and kind in the same breath, her tendency to oscillate from petulant and puerile to mature and measured, her ability to slip from romantically lovelorn to platonically devoted. It’s the rare record that captures how visceral it can feel to work through, and truly understand, your own feelings.

After dropping out of the Berklee College of Music, Diaz spent the better part of the last 15 years in Nashville and Los Angeles, working as a writer and session musician. With credits on records by Kesha, Elle King, and Bleached, among others, Diaz has the resume of an industry lifer: The vast majority of her work, aside from her four prior solo records, has been for soundtracks and commercials, working on material used in everything from Lucifer to Love Island. But where pedigreed songwriters have a tendency to turn out solo records that are mealy, mushy, or just generally overcooked, on History of a Feeling, Diaz steps away from the conventions of hired-gun songwriting with ease.

Her songs often succeed because of how little is done to them. Every single song on History of a Feeling is driven by a strong, indelible vocal melody memorable and polished enough to sit on a far more commercial record. Rather than toning down her natural affinity for melody, Diaz and producer Andrew Sarlo (Big Thief, Bon Iver) pull everything else back. The vocal melody is often the only moving part in these songs. On “Man in Me,” Diaz’s clarion voice—a titanium box lined with velvet—takes the song to the rafters with just dissonant guitars and gently arpeggiating piano. It’s a song about trying to work through perceived deception, though it’s not played as a tearjerker because Diaz is smart enough to know that the song, and its inhabitants, deserve something more complicated.

The skeletal ballad “Woman in My Heart” doesn’t play Diaz’s high-gloss vocal melody for cheap pathos. Where a lesser artist might go for easy catharsis, Diaz lurches into a bluesy, unrelenting stomp. “Think Of Me” works within similar musical boundaries—fragmented guitar chords sit atop the cavernous thud of a bass drum—but Diaz’s delivery conjures a vastly different mood. Her words tumble out like ill-advised texts; you can practically see her typing in a fury, first slowly— “I hope you fuck her with your eyes closed/and think of me”—before letting the rest flood out as one unwieldy phrase: “I hope you fuck her with your eyes closed/Put the shame off with some benzos/Swallow the feeling while you walk home/And think of me always.” In an instant, Diaz’s vitriol is revealed as a plea, a coping mechanism to hide her own lingering feelings.

The tension between melody and arrangement on History of a Feeling occasionally recalls Feist’s last two records, Metals and Pleasure: music that reverse-engineered the outcome of pop music without using its bells and whistles, eliciting feelings from the texture and tone of a sound more than the words. Those albums, like History of a Feeling, are combustible and earthy, made all the more functional for how unprocessed and unadorned they sounded. There’s proof that these songs would work with shinier production: “Resentment,” the centerpiece of History of a Feeling, first appeared on Kesha’s 2020 record High Road. That version used tricks of the trade—gossamer synths, a belting vocal performance, occasional shifts from second-person to first-person—to create emotional weight. And yet Diaz’s version, stripped-back and relatively at ease, hits so much harder. She makes even the most immovable feelings open up with just a little time and space.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Madi Diaz - History of a Feeling Music Album Reviews Madi Diaz - History of a Feeling Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Wednesday, September 08, 2021 Rating: 5

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