Leor Miller's latest is an outstanding interior monologue of growth, doubt, and hurt.
Leor Miller, a self-described “genderqueer pop baby,” is no stranger to documenting the personal. The singer-songwriter from Evanston, Illinois has released seven diaristic full lengths and a handful of singles and EPs in the past year alone. Their latest, Gender Dysphoria Memes, is an interior monologue of growth, doubt, and hurt that pushes at the limits of sonic reality and yanks your feelings along for the ride. In the first ten seconds of listening, you can hear the distant musical poles of the album: disjointed, atonal synth chords transition into an easy acoustic strum. On Miller's past releases you can expect a more traditional indie-folk feel, but now they're branching into new types of production. Their acoustic ballads are interspersed with jaunty pop-punk ditties like “Discover Myself” or “Agency” and spaced-out lyric poems like “A Lizard.” The warbly, sometimes underwater-sounding production and emotionally raw lines give you a feeling of being inside Miller’s head. They often layer vocal tracks, creating a personal duet: is Miller singing to you or to themself? The lyrics get so wrenchingly honest that you wonder if you’re intruding upon a private narrative.
Miller addresses a general “you,” a frequent adversary in Memes. “You” is the person that judges, confines, and oppresses. “I am not what you call me / I am not my body,” they declare, and then in the next track, “I don’t owe you anything.” One of the more experimentally composed tracks, “A Lizard,” is full of rippling reflections and echoes. The guitar makes stretching, back-cracking noises as Miller scrapes along the strings. The effect is something like a distorted mirror, or maybe a functioning mirror in which you see something you don’t expect. But the song itself is the closest thing to a love poem you’ll find on Memes, and its sun-drenched dizziness contrasts nicely with the stark accusation of “Love Song of Contempt” that comes next. I found the chorus of "Love Song" bobbing to the top of my head throughout the week; a stinging little assertion that works its way into one’s guilty conscious the way accusations like this are supposed to. The lyrics bring forth the censorious “you” again and speak to the compartmentalization of non-binary people: “And I will be / Your accessory / For the world / To see.” You can hear the wry irony seeping through Miller’s steady melody. Even when you choose to define yourself in opposition to a social structure, people will feel the need to give you a label and a space. Miller continues this theme of confinement in “Place Based Depression,” a slow lullabye about the ways physical spaces can impact mental ones. If you’re feeling undefined, unraveled, or uneasy, I urge you to listen through this album. Put your headphones on, lie on your bed, imagine you’re in the angsty-teen montage of a movie, and let yourself feel honest.
Listen to Leor Miller on Bandcamp.
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Emily Lyon is a writer and musician living in the Hudson Valley. She hopes to mother various reptiles one day. Follow her on Twitter.