Glancing at the apathetic eyes, disheveled long hair, and brooding clothing that preface her debut album, “Sorry” (depicted underneath), anyone would have pegged Meg Myers for your stereotypical Angsty Teen Artist in less than five seconds. Her self-deprecating lyricism and raucous sound didn’t help either, both acting as justifications for a brisk judgement.
After switching record labels and touring the United States, that assumption can no longer be made. “Take Me to the Disco,” her sophomore album and first under 300 Entertainment, finds Myers more calm and self-assured of her value underneath a trim bob (featured image), warranting respect instead of intimidation. Change is embodied throughout the picture, but how is that evolution captured in her music?
With crooning ooh’s and tender choruses, the opening and title track “Take Me to the Disco” is the perfect representation of New Meg, devoid of the defining angst of “Sorry.” “Dreamy, atmospheric” production, created through hefty guitar reverb and cinematic string quartet melodies, continues to explore more uncharted territory but is stifled by Myers’ generic sentiments of loneliness: “Enter the sound of silence/ All that remains is just a girl back at the start.”
Traces of Old Meg are still present; there’s that same intensity from her debut album, merely expressed through profound yearning rather than head-bobbing guitar riffs and vocal belting, and “take me to the disco” is a euphemism for death, a common subject on Myers’ previous work.
Her past is most prominent on lead single “Numb” however, the first glimpse back into Myers’ familiar world of angst. Accompanied by a looping bass line and ebb-and-flow guitar glissandi, Myers throws punches at Atlantic, her former record label, for objectifying her into a “top-five single” machine, just more fodder to feed to the company’s commercial greed (“I’ll keep marching on/ Like a broken robot/ Money back guarantee”).
The chorus’ juxtapositions of harsh and delicate vocals alongside a backdrop of guitar shredding are reminiscent of Myers’ 2015 single “Sorry” and 90s PJ Harvey, but vulnerability can still cut through the wall of sound. Descriptions of the tug-of-war between escapism and acquiescence in the third verse and bridge personally detail the suffocating frustration “a lot of artists fall victim to,” according to Billboard’s Chris Payne, with record label disputes.
This volte-face between Old and New Meg, a sort of “good-cop, bad-cop” dynamic, is a recurring theme. After the first four songs of “Take Me to the Disco” though, the shtick loses its appeal, and listeners start to realize the limitation of each character. Last time I checked, puns were intended for humor and not a “sexy rocker”, but Myers had other ideas for “Jealous Sea.” Her poetry could’ve been penned by a fifth grader with its blatancy — “And I don’t think I can stop the jealous sea/ When it comes, it comes like waves and I can’t breathe” — and the consistent, ticking synths feel like a countdown to when the song can finally be over. The lyrics diminish the track’s value further, sounding like the rejects salvaged from the trash can during the recording of “Numb” with redundant depictions of shutting out the world. Perhaps the only commendable feature is the hauntingly visceral and distortion at the end, but that is nothing groundbreaking (Frank Ocean and SOPHIE have already made pitch shifting/vocal modulation a norm in their music).
Myers’ biggest crime stems from “Little Black Death,” an Old Meg that falls victim to Myers’ obsession with death. Riddled with the melodrama of adolescence, “Little Black Death” is a snapshot from That Emo Phase middle/high school students endured. A cliche, failed romance and exaggerated mantra (“A part of me died last night”) take center stage during the verses before the bridge challenges how low the bar can be set, taking an even steeper, downhill turn: “Now it’s over/ No more feeling/ Nothing left to believe in.” Save for an idiosyncratic reference to the French phrase “Le Petit Mort” (a sensation likened to death) in the title and chorus of the track, “Little Black Death” is an disappointing iteration of “Numb.”
“Constant,” Myers’ closest attempt at an Ed Sheeran song, closes this underwhelming 45-minute “journey” with a realization that people are united by the facades they wear and a universal search for happiness:
I’m trying not to feel, but maybe I’m not alone in this constant side
It’s a statement copy and pasted from Captain Obvious’ mouth, and the happy ending loses some of its magic. Especially with its prosaic delivery, the truth can become eye-rolling and lackluster. Eventually, I’m sure Meg Myers will find some way to breathe new life into it considering her grit in the face of change and the slow-but steady development of New Meg. But “Take Me to the Disco” isn’t what you’re listening for.
(Album rating: 6.5)