Vancouver-based EKKSTACY’s misery is a journey through time and a traversing of melancholic post-punk and goth-infused indie rock. Initially rising in the heyday of the blogosphere, the Canadian artist’s second LP in as many years (following 2021’s NEGATIVE) does showcase a sense of maturation. It draws its influence from everything from The Cure to Lil Peep, Joy Division to Jayden Smith. A mishmash, for sure, but it still effectively blends shoegaze, proto-goth, and emo elements. The result is transcendent of temporal boundaries without mindless categorization. Anyone who has experienced his pandemic-era offering, i walk this earth all by myself, already knows the cult-level of admiration EKKSTACY has achieved in but a short period. With a world tour already to his name, EKKSTACY debuts in Bucharest at Control Club on Thursday, June 29.
From the first track, i just want to hide my face, EKKSTACY seems to have honed in on his songwriting prowess. The pulsating bass lines, propulsive post-punk drums, and heavily distorted guitars and synths compliment brooding self-meditation (“And I just wanna hide my face / Every day feels the same / And when I die, what will they say? / Will they remember my name?”). These raw vocals deliver further candid lyrics that delve into themes of depression, isolation, and heartbreak. The juxtaposition between haunting instrumental backing and poignant storytelling creates a unique tension throughout the album – albeit one that may require the ubiquitous “trigger warning” in this day of mass emotional fragility.
Certain tracks like i want to die in your arms and the 1.5-minute suicide-ode wish i was dead stand out as prime examples of EKKSTACY’s ability to craft such emotionally charged material. They possess a bleak allure, making misery an album that demands to be experienced with focused attention, a full immersion into its haunting realities. If done properly, listeners will realize they relate to its bleak themes more than they may initially think. But, while the album unapologetically embraces dread, death, and lost love, it retains an undeniable pop sensibility. Ekkstacy’s vocals soar in hooks that possess an irresistible allure. The record and artist can spellbind active listeners, drawing us into a world where death lurks at every corner but where there is always room for forward movement.
Collaborator with Contragang and Suisside, producer MANGET$U further enriches the pessimistic palette of misery. Tracks like christian death showcase distorted guitar lines that yearn for release. Interestingly, the album’s co-producer is Suzy Shinn, known for collaborations with Ghost, Panic! at the Disco, Fall Out Boy, Weezer, and 5 Seconds of Summer. One of her offerings, eyeliner, unleashes a howling composition that lays bare EKKSTACY’s raw emo-discernment (“You should have told me / To never come back / You destroyed everything that made me smile”).
Previously plagued by self-doubt and dissatisfaction, the misery should mark a turning point in EKKSTACY’s career, reigniting his creative fire and propelling him to new heights. The result is an album that exudes confidence and authenticity. And, hey, it’s not all that bad out there. i’m so happy, for example, offers a bit of a relief from the darkness – although just out of reach (“But the flowers in my soul are getting old”) – for anyone familiar with the throws of deep existential depression, as admirable an effort as can be.
misery is a soundtrack to our nihilist present and certain dystopian future, landing EKKSTACY among the upper tier of Benzo-pop. Through haunting melodies, reflective lyrics, and infectious, genre-bilateral hooks, an immersive, auditory atmosphere of a world on the brink is created, and two rigid middle fingers pointed toward the incessant toxic positivity of the mindfulness-appropriation crowd. A devout offering of malaise from an artist unafraid to dive into the deep recesses of the current human experience, offering tangible perspectives and insight along the way.