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Mini Trees molds moving meditations on ‘Slip Away EP’

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Mini Trees
Mini Trees Slip Away EP
Mini Trees – Slip Away EP. Artwork by @the_understory.

Out of the many, MANY issues grabbing at our attention this year, mental health is a noble and notable topic that’s been making its way around social media. Infographics and Twitter threads are all helpful resources to reference, but its sometimes matter-of-fact delivery isn’t relatable. “5 things you can do to feel productive in quarantine” bolsters this toxic mindset of productivity above all things. The opposite can have similar effects. “It’s ok if you don’t finish that thing today” can be comforting, but how many days does it take for self-care to turn into regression? 

Unlike the black & white messages of social media, music is more nuanced. Ironically enough, it offers a more colorful view on sensations and experiences, because music itself is an experience. Slip Away EP from LA-based indie pop artist Mini Trees (Lexi Vega) is an especially poignant look at experiences surrounding mental health. A contrasting mix of deceptively upbeat instrumentals and vulnerable, reflective lyrics show that tackling mental health isn’t as straightforward as one might think: making this EP an essential listen.

We hear this contrast right away in the opening track. A hazy, static intro suddenly blooms into a vibrant and catchy pop tune. But a closer look at the lyrics reveals Vega struggling with self-loathing and feeling alone in a crowded room among other things (“Losing my head, circling the drain / Stumbling, hating myself again”). The song and its claustrophobic music video are perfect depictions of what many can relate to; putting up a happy face even though more sinister thoughts lie below the surface.

“Garden” recontextualizes this isolating feeling in a way which makes it hard for others to help.  It’s difficult enough to navigate anxiety and depression on your own. But it sucks so much more to understand that a loved one is going through something similar and there’s only so much you can do. Not even the powers of God are enough to pull someone out of their worst moments (“Separate the waters / Pull me in two / Abandon the garden / To get through to you”).

The EP’s next two tracks take a turn sonically and see Vega and frequent collaborator Jon Joseph experiment with song structure and instrumentals. “Want Me To Stay” slows things down, and the thumping of the drum mirrors downtrodden and gloomy heartbeats. The guitar draws out these gloomy feelings with its hazy tone.

With “April”, it takes a couple of listens to understand where it is getting at. It makes sense when taking the lyrics into context. “I’m reading the writing on the wall / If there’s a point left in it all / It’s dried out and fleeting / I’m watching it all come apart” and we almost hear it come apart towards the end with a cacophony of instruments flooding our ears. Yet through it all, Vega’s voice shines amidst the chaos.

“Honestly” is honestly the perfect closer for this amazing EP and possibly Vega’s best song to date. Its barebone verses consisting of drums, bass, vocals, and sparse claps replant your feet on solid ground after hearing the sonic chaos from “April.” After running away from her problems, Vega finally faces them head-on. In the process, she is unable to unearth this underlying experience of “the want”. What’s missing? What can we do to fill the emptiness? Why does wanting diminish happiness so much? We don’t know. And we don’t find out. Instead, Vega props up a growing list of questions during the bridge (“What will make you happy? / Is it always chasing? / Is it always wasting? / Is it the world in your hands? / Is it taking all you can?). As the song fades out, the questions hit harder and sneak off into silence.

Mini Trees Lexi Vega
Mini Trees (Lexi Vega). Photo by Shab Ferdowsi.

Even though it only spans five songs, Slip Away EP is a rich collection of music worth a full album. There’s always something new to discover in each song. Whether that’s in the catchiness of the title track, the biblical imagery of “Garden,” the way desperation has taken form in “Want Me To Stay,” the escapism of “April,” or the brutal honesty of “Honestly.”

Don’t let this EP slip away from your radar.

Artist pages: Bandcamp | Instagram | Spotify

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