Lomelda: M for Empathy
review by Evan Balikos
Lomedla’s latest album speaks volumes with its intimate miniatures.
Small and shakily written melodies are often the most effective ones. Sometimes a comfortable chord progression and a passionate voice can cause careful contemplation in the listener. This process of meditation fully manifests in the music delivered by Lomelda (the stage name of Texas singer/ songwriter, Hannah Read) and drives the emotions lining her newest album, M For Empathy. Her last album Thx had a clean sound and featured a narrative of travelling and isolation, but this time she has forfeited percussion and the gloss of studio recording entirely for a bedroom-stained collection of songs about the value of understanding one another. The album is very short, with each track lasting around a minute or more, but the undeniable vulnerability that shapes its lifespan will keep you in conversation with it long after the 16 minutes have flown by.
On the opener “Talk,” she strums slowly and precisely. Her subdued tone rings devastatingly romantic, as if she’s sharing the secret that will kill her. The next track kicks things up though, with sprinkling piano keys lining the mysterious spaces left unfilled by conversations she never had. “I thought of so many things to say to you/ But what were they what were they what were they to you,” Read ponders on “Bust.” Her repetition of ‘what were they’ in the second verse underscores the quiet insanity that may arise when we reflect and regret not talking to the person we want by our side or even in our bed. This is not her only song where she uses the recurrence of words wisely. On “Tell,” she splits into two voices to illustrate the invisible wall that exists between the talker and the talkee. Her voice in the background sings ‘I can’ over the arising choir, but she never says, ‘I will.’
Read’s knack for simple but fitting lyrics is a strong aspect of M for Empathy, but sometimes it is easier to get lost in her plaintive musical arrangements. On “Bunk,” Read sings in an airy pitch over a toy-like piano progression. She envisions light shining from her bedmate and writes herself as Icarus reaching for it. “If I crawl up into your bunk/ Bet it would break/ From our weight,” she sings gently and lets her long notes linger like heartache. “M for Magic,” with its sad cowboy combo of two guitars with a piano, is also dissonantly beautiful. Just these two tracks vindicate the notion that the most powerful magic at play in M For Empathy is the resonance that rests in its minimalist backdrops.
Nonetheless, the album remains versatile and alluring, becomingdarker towards the end. Read manages to bookend two ‘Bad’ themed songs around one about suicide. Both of them are poetic murals of fulfillment through people, but “So Bad 2, Care” suggests a lack of appreciation from the other person. “Took me like a/ Photo like a/ Exit ramp like your/ Sweet time,” she sings in a raspy whimper; her words falling in tender succession with despondent guitar strums. When it all ends with the criminally petite “Watering,” listeners will have learned to see the beauty in appreciating things as they are and not as how they want them to be.
M for Empathy feels designed to leave you wanting more. Read’s catchy folk guitar progressions are consistently cut short on this album to lead into more downtrodden tracks, or to abruptly transition into airy and whimsical arrangements. Yet, the variety in sound and non-linear pacing never feels unearned. It’s not a field trip into boundless territory, just an alternative pathway. Lomelda’s music isn’t made after months of intact planning. It is born from hours of silence and looking past your own reflection; seeing past windows and into the eyes of the people farthest away from you. Though not as accessible as Thx, M for Empathy exists as a perfect midnight album because of its humbleness.