salem ilese Shares the Soundtrack of Her Life in 'High Concept'
LA-based singer-songwriter salem ilese has shared with fans the soundtrack of her life on her sophomore album High Concept. In High Concept, every note is a carefully woven thread, crafting a resonating narrative, using each track as a chapter in her story, reflecting the ebb and flow of love's essence.
"High Concept is a collection of my favorite song concepts I've written over the last few years," shares ilese. "This album is a little window into my brain, recounting intimate details of my life through wordplay and pop melodies. If it were a concept album, the concept would be concepts. conception !!"
The album opens with "The Trailer," which quite literally serves as a sonic trailer, opening up with minor melody and lyric teasers from other songs that appear throughout the album. Sneak peeks from songs to follow blend together in a kaleidoscopic collage before ilese reveals that despite hating trailers, she wishes she had "sat through us." She lists her regrets amid a flurry of flighty yet emotive instrumentation.
In the highly relatable "Team Sport," she calls out one-sided relationships with production reminiscent of '00s pop-punk, transporting the listener back to the times of Avril Lavigne and Tamogatchis. In the clever verses where she spells out "love," she lists his frustrating shortcomings, including but not limited to letting her down, leading her on, and not being vulnerable with her. In the chorus, she belts out, "I thought this was a team sport / Tryin' not to keep score / But what you're giving's not enough / Damn, I wish it was." ilese's gnashing guitar, rock-drumming, and polished composition of the track's instrumentation perfectly soundtrack any post-breakup cry sesh.
The album's focus track, "Boys R Us," is a dance-inducing bop that sees the breakout star spending time in her vivid imagination with her perfect boyfriend. She drinks in bed and blows off her friends to stay inside and spend time alone. ilese declares that she needs to go to "Boys' R Us," admitting, "And even though you can't buy love / I'll take lonely with somebody over lonely with nobody." The synth-led chorus is fueled with dazzling harmonics, marinating in nostalgia with its '90s pop-esque instrumentation.
"PainHub" is a critical take on society's strange fixation with doomscrolling, aka endlessly scrolling through negative headlines and getting lost in the internet's darkest, most apathetic corners. It opens with a flurry of raging guitar riffs and moody bass lines. But, then, the singer dives right in, expressing that we've become desensitized to disaster and how people "...like when stories end in tragedy / I like the movies where they kill the lead / Ain't nothin' sadder then reality." As the high-energy track rages on, she explores her struggles with falling down deep, dark internet holes, wishing that there was just one thing we could blame for our fascination with despair.
Teaming up with fellow indie darling vaultboy, "don't shop when ur hungry !!" sees the singer-songwriter explore the parallels between our impulsive decisions after a breakup and our choices when hunger clouds our judgement. The track serves as a deft showcase of the pop star's impressive narrative-driven, allegorical writing, tackling complex emotions with a fresh perspective. The dynamic collaboration with vaultboy cautions against the perils of entering the dating world with an empty heart, creating an effortless, catchy track with a clever twist.
"Strongly Worded Letter," a personal favorite, is a cathartic, raw, pop-punk-inspired anthem that reveals ilese's honest feelings about her ex. Opening with the sound of a typewriter, the new track explores the artist's internal monologue as she finally starts to cope with the ending of an imperfect relationship. ilese, who naturally has a track record of storytelling and an assorted list of songwriting credits, pens a "strongly worded letter" with searing lyrics like, "I tried cutting up your sweater, that made it worse," and "I hope this finds you well, somewhere in the deepest depths of hell."
The album's finale, "Designated Driver," is a short yet impactful piece of existentialism that examines ilese's feelings of burnout. Starting with rolling thunder-eqsue instrumentation, the track takes a step back to highlight her exquisitely rich voice. She narrates her evening of being stuck in her phone and wrestles with the feelings of wanting to go out but not finding the willpower to move. She sings, "If life is a party, I'm a designated driver at twenty-something," proclaiming that she's "too young to be this tired," yet feels the weight of having to perform and try not to bore the crowd. The exhaustion overwhelms her as a choir of voices joins the whimsical outro of the song before ilese closes the the album with the heart-wrenching line, "if life is a part, I'm the designated driver."
High Concept is a masterful body of work that expertly delves into love's mountainous highs and cavernous lows. Boasting lyrics that sparkle with witticism and a playful edge, ilese navigates her existence without realizing it, mirroring the album's themes, emotions, and tales in a genuinely visceral reflection.
Listen to High Concept below: