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Maeve Steele Whisks Up a Pop Noir Fantasy in ‘Overland’


Photo: Swoon

The retrospective lens suits some as a purposeful creative template but ultimately a distortion of their narrative. A nostalgia placarded by Super8 filters, buoyantly natural looks, and a wardrobe that suits a video effort, and then we move along. For others, it is a dictum of their worth regardless of era, a proclamation that whatever the time period, their voice, their stories, their work will endure. For Maeve Steele, the Los Angeles via Nashville via San Francisco songwriter, her talent for vivid songwriting paired with her old soul approach to vocals—subtle, graceful but pained—supersedes the faux patina of the past, it is classically correct.

While juggling wordplay at Vanderbilt University, Steele was exploring the Nashville songwriter gauntlet before souring on the idea of handing off her songs. Experimenting with folk and Americana over the past few years, she has learned to be less precious with her own work, less diary on display, “writing more, doubting less.”  The result is her latest EP Overland, a majestic collection of songs she calls a roadmap of LA’s “emotional neighborhoods.”

Like all smart writers, she turns a place into a character, and the result is improbably excellent for such a young artist; yes riddled with singer-songwriter lineage references, but Steele’s full, raspy adjacent voice escapes the creative posturing that belittles most retro efforts and instead allows for a joyful contrast that makes it her own. Starting with "Riptide," a punchy rhythm and slight off-tune melody allow for a wonderful dancing cadence, resonating in a wonderful chorus. "Red Wine Teeth" begins coyishly, hinting at pop but drifts into a lackadaisical, light-flowing tune that fills the ears like warm daylight at dawn. "Sweet Talking" is a proper FM radio track, emotive and angsty with delicate but haunting lyrics that always deserve a moody love interest. "Refuge" is a layered, collection of sounds that resolve into a dulcet but dark melody, punctuated by slide guitar and strings. The closing effort "Slow Down" lends credence to her pop-noir moniker, a song that is searching, charming in its tone but also punctuated with moody pianos that feel ominous before dancing back into a slow-spoken chorus.

Yes, the past is guiding, a collective verse wanting to be sung but the power of Steele’s work is the admission that prior eras influenced but don’t own the narrative. Her music has the timelessness many seek, without the cliches most become riddled with.  

Listen to Overland below:

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