Annot(e)tations is a column by Austin Nguyen that shines a light on the hidden gems of recently released albums or singles that may have flown under your radar. This week, he discusses Monsune’s “JADE.”
With the lines of genre blurring each day with the release of category-defying music like “Old Town Road,” I’m starting to believe that pigeonholing question — the dreaded “What’s your favorite genre of music?” — has become outdated. Now, more than ever, on-demand streaming services like Soundcloud, Spotify, and Tidal have enabled music listeners to diversify their tastes and discover eclectic niches that defy classification quicker than ever before, so today, in accommodation with modern circumstances and my Music Geekery, I propose a different question:
What’s your favorite type of song?
The theater-obsessed choir girl in the front of the risers? She loves any song she can belt to; who cares if it’s “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Misérables” or SZA’s “The Weekend?” If vocal chops are required, that song is her new karaoke go-to.
The introverted and prospective English major who writes poems in his free time? He can’t live without the music that reminds him of a specific time and place, and his earphones are either playing “Paris in the Rain” by Lauv, “Photograph” by Ed Sheeran, or something Jeremy Zucker that has just enough sunshine plucked between those guitar chords.
For me, the songs that are dynamic, that unfurl and evolve as opposed to the conventionalism of rigidly structured production and verse-chorus formulas, are the ones that fascinate me. The beats switch in Frank Ocean’s “Nights,” short-lived effervescence of Mitski’s “Geyser,” color-distorting modulation in Soccer Mommy’s “Cool” — the list goes on and on and on, but my favorite one this year is its newest addition: Monsune’s “JADE,” the last track on his latest EP “Tradition.”
The initial atmosphere of the track has the laid-back serenity of an oceanside daydream, the singer’s voice with just enough reverb and softness to feel distant, carried only by what sound the surrounding sea breeze seems to pick up. Over a sparse drum pattern and an acoustic-guitar-led melody, memory, with its effusive lens, guides Monsune’s voice in a narrative of a mis-timed and unrequited love: “By the time that you / Can’t remember my name / I’ll still be waiting for you.”
A hushed synth ascends with him as he lingers on those last two words, unable to let go of his infinite yearning as the music swells in anticipation, then recedes to prepare for the second verse. His voice floats in the same ethereal manner as the first, but the growing tension stuck between the crescendoing synth chords don’t let the feeling last long before the void in instrumentation becomes filled with a guttural belt.
It’s the predecessor of the complete 180° turn that comes — all romanticized ethereality replaced with Mitski-like viscerality, the drum set ablaze and the guitar turned electric now. “Backward, forward / Back and forth for / 15 years, 15 years,” Monsune shouts for those of us on the cusp of love, surrendering to the frustration of a relationship being just out of reach, a full-blown empty parking lot, garage band catharsis to let go of it all, every single shred of hope for the past that was and still is.
But the sound starts to circle the static vortex of a TV turning off, Monsune finishing his song with resignation: “I don’t know. Sometimes, you just grow up like that.” There’s almost a sense of acutely self-aware comedy, a sort of breaking-the-fourth-wall camera panning out. So maybe that hopeless romantic by the beach is no more, but what’s wrong with that?