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Herb Sundays 47: Gia Margaret
Chicago sleep rock queen with a precise and melancholy mix. Peak summer happysad.
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Today’s Herb comes from Chicago, IL singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist & producer Gia Margaret. I can’t recall how I first heard Mia’s music but a safe guess is my colleague Dave at Ghostly who has some of the baddest playlists (and music taste) out there.
After her stunning 2018 debut on the great Orindal Records, There’s Always Glimmer she ended up going through a rough period and losing her voice, which led her to a recording an ambient album titled Mia Gargaret (2020). This is the one that really captivated me, everything from its submerged album cover and a tracklist featuring stolen moments of spoken word, including a lecture from British philosopher Alan Watts, whose work was of great comfort to her at this time. The bio states: “arrangements of synthesizer, piano & acoustic guitar simultaneously ache & soothe, building emotional landscapes that rise & recede like scenery through a train window.”
“I wanted to capture the feeling of a truly strange time in my life, even though I would prefer to forget it altogether. This process helped me understand something about myself, & hopefully it can help others, too.”
The music is earnest, dreamy, and sad. Resting on the ledge between joy and longing, Gia's music (and Herb mix) takes me back to being in my late teens and early 20s: Always lovesick, mainlining trip-hop, Simon & Garfunkel, Eno, and brittle IDM on CD. Constantly searching for the odd song that would make me feel whole, just for a moment.
"Summertime always makes me nostalgic, so this playlist is …. a product of a lot of songs I listened to for so many years”
The music of Gia Margaret indeed takes me to a place and self that I’d sometimes rather forget but then realize it's impossible. It tugs at the times in youth when your feelings are bigger than anything.
Quiet summers in the city over the past couple of years have brought this feeling back to me, all long shadows stretching by closed newsstands. The pain of summer is not that nothing is good, it's that somewhere, something is great and you aren't a part of it. Your would-be lover is sitting on a striped towel on a creaky dock, taking carefree selfies with someone else. The subway train has left the station, and it’s not coming back any time soon. You're alone and you can't make good on the promise-filled light that seeps into your room. It's these feelings of sweet dread that we have, as a culture, filtered into memes (“I should call her/him..” etc.) but are actually excruciating in practice. Nothing is heavier than the young heart, the rawest nerve. This is the stuff Gia Margaret is made of.
The playlist is predictably wonderful. Ushered in by the immortal Bowery Electric with their barely audible vocals, these songs are ashy tracks that feel on the verge of falling apart beautifully. The mix includes tracks by Herb album L'Rain (Herb Sundays 18), and faves M. Sage and Slowdive's Neil Halstead. There's also a thread of early 2000s UK chill (Zero 7, Mandalay, Bonobo) which is spot on. In the making of this playlist, Gia and I also bonded over our shared love of Sakamoto's unassuming "Undercooled" (if you want your head taken clean off, peep the YouTube of the piano version).
While we await Gia’s next release, her last one, 2021’s surprise song "Solid Heart" is a total gem. It recalls some fave early 2000s songs by Stars or Azure Ray (high praise from me) with some slide guitar realness It’s a covid song that actually delivers the goods. Gia coos (without self-pity): "Do we want to talk about / the year we did without?”
There it goes again.
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