Photo: Nicole Busch
"Rhyming diary entries." It is the sweet and deceivingly simple way in which Maia, more popularly known as mxmtoon, describes her highly-anticipated debut album, the masquerade. Yet, tucked within the pages of this rhyming diary are the moving, intimate glances into the life of what could be any teenager on the face of this planet.
the masquerade is a deeply human album, one unshackled by any pretense or notion of the 19-year-old artist's ensuing fame. The stories on display here read less like those of someone who has millions of eyes on them and more closely resemble the sort of hushed whispers shared between best friends or the scribbled musings written on the back of college-ruled notebooks. The resulting effect is a ten-track run that plays with themes of lo-fi indie rock, jumps headfirst into soaring indie pop, dips into nostalgic, swaying R&B, and finds its footing in heartbreaking ballads, all while staying grounded by mxmtoon's gift for poignant lyricism.
Jumping from line to line with a sense of unbridled joy and candid melancholy, mxmtoon avoids the many pitfalls that would likely befall similar acoustic-led works. While tracks like "suffice" and "high & dry" may first appear to border on the saccharine, they soon give way to Maia's expansive, storied world, which are met in turn by an array of lush string instrumentation. In stark contrast, the album's opening track, "unspoken words," with its iPhone texting and calling samples and mounting guitars, plays out like a masterclass in balancing exquisite soundscaping and delicate vocals. mxmtoon spoke on the journey that led her to her debut album,
"my album, 'the masquerade,' is about my journey of growing up! about learning who i am, who i want to be, and the challenges along the way. but it's not just for me, it's also for you. the stories told are universal experiences, so listen along and find yourself within the lyrics."
In transposing her teenage years into a collection of breathtaking songs, the masquerade arrives as a debut set to stand the test of time, and more importantly, as a sonic guidepost to those looking for a kindred spirit.
Listen to the masquerade below: