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mxmtoon finds light after dark on ‘dusk EP’

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mxmtoon – dusk EP

When mxmtoon (Maia) released her dawn EP earlier this year, many were enamored by the warm, bright, and youthful optimism that the young artist had to offer. Then, just as she was gearing up for this summer’s respective “Dawn & Dusk Tour”… 2020 happened.

A lot has changed since then, and it’s safe to say that many of us have gone a little stir-crazy — but all of that hasn’t stopped Maia from continuing to be her best self. Her new EP, dusk, is her masterful follow-up to April’s dawn, offering another seven tracks that explore the subtle changes, inner growth, and self-reflection that can only take place in the quiet hours of the night.

dusk EP is filled with softer and more quiet moments of lyricism and musicality that Maia herself describes in a press release as both “introverted and reflective.” She continues, “it’s about sitting with the darkness for a little longer—finding the unknown and not quite wanting to move away from it yet. It’s the way I wish I could make my previous music sound—sad, but beautiful.” The EP’s opening track, “bon iver,” helps establish this dreamy nightscape, setting the scene for the rest of the album with its reminiscent imagery and lyrics: “Wondering when our stars will meet again / Maybe when the sun goes down”.

What makes this album stand out from her previous ones, however, is the simultaneous maturity of both the production quality as well as Maia herself. Whereas dawn EP was filled with driving tones, hopeful melodies, and bright acoustic strings, dusk adds a whole new layer to mxmtoon’s sonic feel with subdued ballads, somber echoes, and powerful keys. In fact, the center track of the album, “wallflower”, is a stripped singer-songwriter ballad, making it seem like a page straight out of Regina Spektor’s playbook.

Tracks “first” and “ok on your own” (the latter of which features none other than the pop queen herself, Carly Rae Jepsen) bring back that classic mxmtoon ukulele strumming combined with bittersweet post-breakup energy as Maia recounts the vulnerability, growth, and acceptance that comes with ending a shared chapter of life. The haunting melodies of the latter contrast the drifting wetness of the former, driving home the difficult but ultimately liberating decision of finding peace on your own terms.

Then there’s the lowkey “myrtle ave.” whose relatable and timely lyrics find solace in a person who means the world to you, especially when the world outside becomes a little too much: “Though everything’s been broken, you’re complete / When everyone’s gone sour, you’re so sweet.” The catchy and relatively upbeat feel of this track is sure to make it memorable—especially to those who don’t have to spend their quarantine alone.

The standout song, however, is the penultimate and spellbinding “show and tell,” whose spacious and unintrusive rhythms provide the necessary space for our minds to breathe and be free, all while keeping us grounded in a slow meditation guided by Maia’s methodically placed vocals. Sparse chords on the uke envelop flavorful synths and reverberated harmonies, masterfully integrating the sounds of old and new mxmtoon with the thematic color of the album. The resulting soundscape feels at once both mysterious, comforting, and patiently hopeful as we wait for the sun to rise again.

As a whole, dusk stands as a great EP on its own, while also serving as the perfect complement to dawn. The lyrics and song structures are all classic mxmtoon, but the production quality and instrumentation have matured, reflecting her growth as both a singer-songwriter and as a person entering their early 20s.

Its intimacy and introspection make dusk EP the perfect album to listen to while staring at stars out the bedroom window, providing a temporary escape when all we have left are our thoughts. However, rather than being a pessimistic antithesis to dawn, dusk tells us to instead look inward, because living with the present is just as important as looking towards the future.

dusk is out everywhere now.

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