PICK OF THE WEEK: Miserable’s EP ‘Loverboy’ takes bloody aim at disrespect, body objectification

A personal glitch I have, which I’m not super proud of, is my inability to deal with unexpected problems and changes. Like, OK, let’s say I get three graphs of this story written, I forget to hit save, the battery dies, and I lose everything. I’m not one to just rip back open the laptop, get in the same headspace, and go at it all over again. Come to think of it, let me just hit save on this.

Issues far more frustrating got in Kristina Esfandiari’s way when writing new music for her solo project Miserable, namely the material got torched when her hard drive caught on fire. That would be enough to discourage most people after they got all of these songs saved and seemingly secure, but that didn’t deter Esfandiari. The material she created during her residency in Brooklyn flowed from her mysteriously and generously, as she put together the four songs that make up her new EP “Loverboy,” that’s also packaged with a reissue of her hard-to-find 2014 EP “Dog Days.” The music on “Loverboy” is dark, cathartic, and pained, even amid the sometimes bright sheen of these songs that always seem to eventually spill into the shadows. It’s about the frustration of women being objectified and disrespected in society, a punch back to the faces of those who aim to keep them in that position. This paired with “Dog Days” shows a strange contrast from where she was a few years ago with Miserable (those were her first stab at pop songs and have a dark haze like Beach House, Slowdive, and Best Coast) and where she is now (where the songs are more in your face, blunt, and bloody). It also stands far apart from the work Esfandiari does fronting King Woman, so if you’re new to Miserable (they do have four EPs and an LP), you’ll need to adjust.

The title track kicks off the collection, a murky, breathy song that digs its claws right into its prey. “You make me sick, let’s call it what it is, a disappointment,” Esfandiari jabs over the chorus, making her feelings abundantly clear while the song bubbles down dark tributaries, ending with her ensuring you know, “I am not a toy.” “Gasoline” travels over a damaged relationship, though it sparkles and gives off a misleading exuberance.  “Oh, I love you, and you love me too, what are we gonna do?” she posits over the chorus, as the song rumbles into the shadows, letting off chills and coming to a rush at the end. This is my personal favorite of the collection. “Cheap Ring” has guitars churning in the shadows, as the sounds rumble in the dark, the drums kick in, and Esfandiari opens up with, “Hard headed, difficult person, I’m sought after I guess, couldn’t care less.” The song keeps rushing and trembling, as Esfandiari pushes past undesirable people, leaving them marked as they should be. “Pain Farm” is one of her bloodiest and, considering we just put a potential sexual assaulter on SCOTUS, most painfully relevant. Starting in a post-punk haze, Esfandiari blasts, “Remember that one time? You felt so inclined, invite yourself to stay the night, with someone who’s blackout drunk, I guess I’ve got all the luck, say I’m pretty when I puke, I can’t even stand up.” The chorus rushes while Esfandiari’s voice quivers and stabs, later wailing out in the haze, bruised but defiant, wishing she could forget what a vile individual did to her.

The “Dog Days” material starts with “Hotel” that is moody and hazy, feeling like you’re trying to see through glazy morning eyes. Guitars swim in dark shadows, as Esfandiari confesses, “Staring at your perfect mouth, oh how closed off I’ve become, I can’t look you in the eyes.” “Fever” is immersed in pop murk, with a dreamy haze wafting, softer singing, and a numbing but rumbling vibe. The track settles into the darkness, as Esfandiari’s singing takes a jazzy turn as the song bleeds away. “High” feels a little more upbeat, yet it’s noise marred as well, with the singing cutting underneath the surface. “Swallow me alive, I’m so high,” she calls, while the music turns into a vortex before getting iced off. Closer “Kiss” drives into noiry territory, as the song takes on the vibe of a numbing torch bearer. “Need to touch you, oh I wanna feel the warm, could this be for real, are you just make believe?” Esfandiari sings, as everything delivers a strange nostalgic vibe. Deep clouds and rain swell, as the keys smear, the ambiance delivers shadows, and the music trickles away into the unknown.

Esfandiari is a unique human whose voice instantly is recognizable and whose slurry haze never fails to capture you in a murky daydream. “Loverboy” may sound exuberant at times, but the music bleeds pain and disappointment, which Esfandiari conveys so perfectly. This along with “Dog Days” make for an intoxicating eight-track listen that demonstrates different sides of this compelling artist.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/miserablegrl

To buy the album, go here: https://www.hellomerch.com/collections/miserable

For more on the label, go here: https://sargenthouse.com/

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