by Mariah Bosch
A dive into an album or an artist is transportive—if you really listen, you find yourself somewhere else, even if just for an hour. I’ve been looking for more and more music that does this, especially at a time where we all can’t go much of anywhere. Walking around my block every evening around 7 pm, I settle into an album and my brain clears just enough. I send a friend an album I’ve been stuck on and soon they’re stuck too, and then we’re in both of our houses, separately obsessed.
I picked these artists because they’ve moved me and I think they can move you, too—these are four artists I listen to often and when I look around, I feel both somewhere else and more firmly in place. Walking upstairs to my apartment, Fresno’s not-autumn-not-winter gathering at my neck, I can come back to incomplete poems, or to cook a meal, or even just to lay around and watch more Frasier.
I hope these albums take you to where you want to go, or where you’ve never been, then circle back to where you most want to be. Imagine that place—a park bench with your crush? An airplane, leveled out, when it feels like you aren’t moving at all, yet you’re traveling so fast? Hold onto that place.
1. TRUE ROMANTIC | Ziemba | Sister Polygon, 2020
Ziemba, or René Kladzyk, is a multi-media performer, El Paso journalist, perfume maker, and musician. TRUE ROMANTIC, released this past September, is a collection of love songs for the best and most lush loves and all of those you go through to get there (like in “Bad Love”). I saw Ziemba last Fall in Oakland, CA, opening for Priests (sadly on hiatus now), and was immediately hooked as she filled the room with herself and explained the scents she’d created to accompany her last full length, Ardis.
TRUE ROMANTIC takes me further into my own affection: how do I express it? or how can I? Kladzyk’s work asks you to lean into experience, whether in a fully imagined world or in your own reality, and this album takes me somewhere so specific: a velvet stage, single spotlight, and watching someone up there really mean it. You don’t know them or any of their heartaches but for just some time, you feel each one and think about someone to call up and apologize to, even over voicemail. I’m sure I’m not alone in missing that moment or the heat of a fixated room. These are past, present, and future love songs: power ballads (the title track, “True Romantic”, “(You Feel Like) Paradise”), 45 rpm singles you keep replaying (“Harbor Me”), and even love songs for people you don’t quite understand (“Mama”). These are songs to take you through complexity and love you haven’t even had yet, love you daydreamt.
My favorite tracks: “Casket & Cradle” (the line “Once I grew tired of crying / I fell asleep” is just…), “True Romantic”, and “Harbor Me”.
2. CHAMBER SONGS FOR LOVE SO PURE | Leti | outer spaceways incorporated, 2019
Leti, or Leti Soriano, is an LA based musician and multimedia artist. Their album, CHAMBER SONGS FOR LOVE SO PURE is full of subtle songs that should fill a big expanse—I think of these songs through open curtains, a storm just starting. They feel precise, telling us only what they want to. “Lady Rosa’s Midnight Theme” turns over on itself, gradually giving more and more to the “you” in the song that’s elusive, even “dirty, gentle, moaning in the moonlight”. This subtle-sexy voice runs through the album but there’s also such a tenderness. “Maribela,” a track written for Leti’s godmother, addresses her in Spanish: “Maribela, con tus manos / sanadoras / y tus ojos / son tan cariñosos / y hacen llorar a los dioses” / “Maribela, with your hands / healers / and your eyes / so loving / and make gods cry”.
I have a photo above my desk of an open field full of flowers, a giant oak tree in the middle. The caption: “Do you remember the time when you were hardly higher than the daisies? When to sit down in a daisy field was to lose the world entirely and find yourself in a fair forest of swaying stems and whispering flowers? How blue the sky was and how far away? But the earth! You could almost feel it breathe.”
This album takes me to this unknown place and all the daisies. CHAMBER SONGS really demands that much space to fill, too.
Favorite tracks: Lady Rosa’s Midnight Theme, Heaven Couldn’t, Hands. Bonus: a cover of Springsteen’s “Tougher than the Rest” on Bandcamp
3. SOL Y LLUVIA | Reyna Tropical | self released, 2019
Reyna Tropical is a collaboration between Fabi Reyna and Sumohair, two LA/Portland based Mexican musicians. Their first full length, SOL Y LLUVIA, was released last August and feels grounded in summer afternoons. On their Bandcamp page, they describe each song as a session of improvisation which makes each of the layered tracks on this album altogether more dynamic.
These songs take me to my own moments of improvisation with artists I miss dearly—the feeling of a room alive with art, or poetry, or a blend of both, and that feeling of pulling it all off once it’s complete. These songs each feel that way, as though the end of each track is a finish line or a moment to finally take a breath. SOL Y LLUVIA works so well as sonic tributes to friendship, to working with other artists and making something completely unique to you and the room you’re making inside of. “Calor” & “Como Fuego” are such sticky sun-soaked songs that they make me mourn a bit of the summer we didn’t get to have—they take me to a packed room, everyone tired from dancing but pushing through one more song anyway, then another. But these aren’t just summer songs—they’re personal and tender—“Tristeza” describes loneliness, but a comfortable one: “sola sin tristeza”, or alone without sadness. At a time of isolation, that’s where we’d like to be, emotionally, I’m sure—alone but not sad. While I’m still working to get there, I think music like this helps me to imagine myself on the other side of it, sun-soaked.
Favorite tracks: Lluvia, Como Fuego, Tristeza
4. MAZY FLY | Spellling | Sacred Bones Records, 2019
Spellling, or Tia Cabral, is an Oakland based multimedia songwriter, writing lush, experimental, and dark electronic pop. MAZY FLY, a follow up to 2017’s PANTHEON OF ME LP, keeps all of these threads going, creating a space for the strange and surreal to live amongst repeating synth loops and melting vocals.
Like a lot of the other artists in this roundup, the multi-disciplinary skill of this artist shows through in the style of each track – Cabral teaches art and does performance art of their own, but considers Spellling a project of its own, intended to create space for magic and surprise. These songs take me there, into a space that asks for complete attention—I can imagine them accompanying a Kusama style exhibition, its own reach extending into infinite space. “Hard to Please” unfolds itself, layering Cabral’s vocals onto multi-directional sonics, and from there, the album keeps besting itself and its own space-making. The instrumentals of songs like “Melted Wings” and “Afterlife” let the listener get lost before charting the rest of the course. We end with “Falling Asleep”, settling into an uncertain comfort that Spellling leaves up to us to figure out.
I listened to this album a lot in the mountains of Oregon and now, in a new season, it feels perfect for any time of year because no matter when you listen, you’re able to move into a totally new space outside of your own, even just for a little under an hour.
Favorite tracks: Afterlife, Dirty Desert Dreams, Falling Asleep
That’s a wrap on the inaugural Honey Literary Mix! Support these musicians directly through Bandcamp or stream them on Spotify—I’ve made my own mix of all four for you to listen along with me here:
I hope these musicians took you somewhere you most wanted to be or where you never expected to find yourself. Listen along with a friend and maybe we can close some of the distance we’re all experiencing.
Listening along with you,
About Mariah Bosch
Mariah Bosch is a Chicana poet from Fresno, CA. She is a candidate in poetry in Fresno State’s MFA program, where she works with Juan Felipe Herrera as a graduate fellow in his Laureate Lab Visual Wordist Studio. Her work can be found in Cosmonauts Avenue, Peach Magazine, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and elsewhere.