Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist Macie Stewart has helped transcend some of the best tracks of the past five years. Their string work added a vital spark to the single SZA named after Drew Barrymor and the title track from indie rock band Whitney’s groundbreaking album. Stewart’s own career has been touring the Chicago scene: starting with genre group Kid These Days, which starred rapper Vic Mensa and a debut album produced by Jeff Tweedy, Stewart (which uses her and her pronouns ) honed his skills in groups. like the avant-garde jazz band Marker. She later became a session player for Top 40 bands like Chance the Rapper and underground stars like Nnamdi. More noticeably, she and Sima Cunningham form the avant-pop duo Ohmme, who released their third album last year.

A few years ago, Stewart described these extensive collaborations as a necessary way to keep the energy going. “It takes cross-pollination of communities to make sure you stay creative,” she said. But at one point, she realized that lending her talents elsewhere had capped her own path to self-understanding. “I didn’t know who I was or what I looked like as an individual,” she explains in press materials for her first solo album, Mouth full of glass. Yet collaboration remains at the heart of the work: moving away from Ohmme’s fuel art-rock, Stewart recruited several Chicago musicians, including Ben LaMar Gay and Sen Morimoto, to embellish his baroque-tinged poetic folk. . The cinematic quality of the project and the refreshing self-awareness make it clear that working with others reinforced the language needed to express oneself.

In their lyrics, Stewart focuses on his personal flaws as a way forward. On the romantic and lush opening “Finally”, soft and undulating guitar pinches introduce a meditation on the opening in the midst of doubts. “I’m wrong and I know it / But I don’t want to show it,” Stewart sings sweetly. Their voices rise like a cherub as they admit that they are finally ready to speak the truth, first to themselves and then to others. Lia Kohl’s cello rushes like cleansing water past their personal growth acknowledgments.

In Stewart’s tale, confronting oneself is a curious journey, full of vibrant images that melt complex emotions into tangible metaphors. On “Where We Live”, her words become brick and mortar as she builds a future home, hot with fire, honey and wine. When she compares herself to the namesake of “Garter Serpent”, admitting to feeling “mean” while being accompanied by angelic choirs and flowering synths, it looks like a tender embrace of our shadow. Stewart does not indulge in self-loathing; instead, a piano net or a saxophone swell make the prospect of change look beautiful. Towards the end of the album, on “Tone Pome”, she extends the pattern of change to natural elements. Soft notes accompany the images of snow; cello whirlwinds enter as Stewart begins to sing the arrival of spring. Although pretty, this is the weakest trail—A glassSuccess did not rest on Stewart’s romantic lyricism, but on his lively compositions and vocal gymnastics.

The best songs on Mouth full of glass feel like they’re alive. Finger-plucked guitars mimic falling rain as Stewart’s melodies meander through octaves like ivy, and the string arrangements are as detailed as hand-embroidered tapestries. Most astonishing is the third quasi-titular track, “Mouthful of Glass”, which recalls the decadent work of George Martin, in particular “Sea of ​​Time” of the Yellow submarine soundtrack. With few words, Stewart shifts the emphasis to tone, lengthening his sentences. Piano bass notes grope in the background and a pearly sound is reminiscent of a leaky faucet. Inspired by a dream and based on no concrete narrative, the magic lies in the satin voices and the cashmere compositions, a world unto itself.

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