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“I am an activist”. That’s how New York-based, underground, alt-pop artist Kiirstin Marilyn introduced herself. So, naturally, we want to hear what she has to say through her songs.
At first listening, her new EP, Ghosts could be just another electro-pop offering. The vocals are sweet and tuneful, the arrangements energetic and the production tight. But it’s way too demanding to be background music or something to dance along to. This is a collection of songs that tap you on the shoulder. Think you might drift away? check your texts? tweet? Not while this music is playing, you won’t. It wants all of you and it accepts nothing less than your full attention.
It’s the voice that does it. Kiirstin may deliver a sweet vocal, but there is an urgency to her delivery too. An “I’m-singing-this-because-it-matters”. A ‘listen-up’. A “get-with-it”. Her activism occupies her tone and campaigns through her phrasing. This is a songbird for social justice.
Opening gently with “Headlines”, Kiirstin could be singing a standard love song ‘I could use your love tonight’, except she is clearly not in love with what she reads ‘I thought I needed you to show me the truth…I need you to get a little ANGRY!!!!’.
Lets get personal. “Long Time Coming” is payback time. Quirky and honest, it says what we have all felt at one time or another, when someone who hurt us gets what’s coming to them. ‘I’m sorry…that I’m not sorry’. Karma should be so sweet!
Taking the mood down, “Please Don’t Kiss Me” promises a ballad, but not for long. “I don’t wanna break your heart, I just wanna start a revolution”. Don’t let love get in the way of progress, but enjoy a classy piece of music that builds, drops, fades and teases, while absorbing the message.
For a song called “The Struggle”, track four is surprisingly smooth and self-assured ‘I live and die for what is right…I refuse to be part of this any more’. Don’t mess with Kiirstin. This edgy vocal, overlaying angst-infused electro, yields no prospect of surrender.
Offering a marching soundscape, title track “Ghosts” is music that demands a film to tell its story in cinemascope. At the very least a full-on alien apocalypse, set in a dystopian universe. War of the Worlds, eat your heart out! Is that Jennifer Lawrence’s agent on the phone?
“Out of Control” changes the mood perfectly, to close the EP with an addictively upbeat rhythm. If alt-reggae is a thing, this is it. Chirpy and cheeky it may be, but challenging too.The story, also told in video, imagines Donald Trump as president and music on the street outlawed. Kiirstin came up with the concept in the wake of the overwhelming number of incidents of police brutality and negligence that have come to light in the past few years because of technology and social media. Says Kiirstin, “The song itself is about very serious subject matter concerning the precarious state of our precious planet, but the music is energetic and fun”.
Delivering six stand-out tracks, Ghosts is more of a mini-album than an EP. While activism trickles through its tunes, this is no folk collection to be sung with sandals and beards. Kiirstin Marilyn redefines protest for the millennial generation, combining message and melody to entertain, uplift and provoke.
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