Photo: Cesar Balcazar
In April, which simultaneously feels just like yesterday and eons ago, Maia, more popularly known as mxmtoon, released dawn, a succinct yet striking collection of seven songs. It was a project practically brimming with life, one that transformed the rapidly rising singer-songwriter's deeply personal experiences into universal glimmers of hope. Now, mxmtoon returns with the companion to dawn, dusk.
Despite, or rather because of its name, dusk arrives as the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Arriving at the tail end of a year that has brought with it moments of unprecedented personal, economic and socio-political strife, dusk frames its seven tracks as less of a reflection of an abysmal year and more as a greater part of a cosmic whole. In her own words,
“as we begin to settle into the latter half of the year, i think we all find ourselves in a point of reflection over how our lives have progressed or stalled over the past months. one thing i’ve found myself stewing on throughout the course of this year specifically, has been the idea of new beginnings, and trying to remind myself that you can always start new stories despite the dark. dusk is meant to serve as a reminder that life is cyclical. while that may be a scary reality to some, i find comfort in the idea that despite the chaos and strife we experience in our daily lives, there is always the opportunity to begin again. even in darkness we have the capacity to strive forward, sadness is just as much a part of living as happiness is. i hope that people can listen to these songs on this EP and find comfort in the knowledge that not everything will go smoothly, but how you rise to the occasion and learn from what you’ve encountered is the important part.”
Fittingly, dusk is notably more insular than dawn, favoring acoustic-driven sweeping moments of reflection over the driving nature that defined tracks like "fever dream" and "lessons." It is a differentiation that is apparent from the outset, as the opening track "bon iver" is as much an ode to the esteemed artist as it is a testament to the feelings captured in his music - a certain sense of weightlessness, a unique emotional intelligence, and a gift for songwriting that transforms distinctive reflections into universal points of understanding.
Maia in turn infuses dusk with similar moments of paired poignancy and stirring songwriting. The latter is a gift that has always been present in her work, but here it feels refined and stripped to its core. Take the Carly Rae Jepsen-assisted "ok on your own," a praise-worthy collaboration that seeks out emotional clarity in real time all while moving forward with the power and grace of an understated early 2000's pop ballad. Or "wallflower," an atmospheric track that grapples with the cost of personal privacy and budding stardom against a backdrop that doubles as sonic poetry.
Released so close together, it is difficult not to draw comparisons between dawn and dusk. And yet, while their respective approaches to telling a close-knit series of empathic stories may differ, it is difficult to think of one as more effectual than the other. If dawn is lighting sparklers on the beach surrounded by the crackling sound of embers and those you love; dusk is the long drive home, head upheld by the reverberating car window as you reflect on those and countless other memories in real-time.
Listen to dusk below: