Toria Saint James aka Europa Sunset is an artist from Portland, Oregon who recently released an album entitled Messyanic Complex. According to Saint James the music she makes “speaks to her struggles as a transgender woman in modern America.” Saint James’ themes and topics may not be pervasive when looking at the mainstream music but she certainly isn’t the first to explore them. The topic has been explored by David Bowie, Culture Club and most recently Antony Hegarty who is arguably the most popular transgender musician performing today.
Regardless of the topic or message music must be impactful in some way for it to penetrate. Fortunately Messyanic Complex succeeds in a number of ways that should capture your attention. Saint James mixes genres such as electronic and classic rock in a tasteful way. The singing is usually powerful, full of emotion and carries the songs.
Saint James went complete DIY style when making this album, She recorded mixed and mastered it on her own. From a production standpoint there were a number of issues such as a muddy low end, too much reverb, etc. Overall, it sounded good but is worth noting that these songs will have probably been taken to a different level with better gear and a professional engineer behind the board.
The album starts off upbeat with a highlight entitled “Millennial Me,” which contains an infectious melody from both the vocals and the instruments. It’s unapologetically optimistic sounding besides the subdued melancholy that exists in Saint James’ voice. The second track “Baby Don’t Cry” revolves around a hard hitting electronic drum beat, spacey synths and distorted synth bass line. She uses auto tune as effect during the verse and strategically removes it during the a cappella section.
Another highlight was “Ill Wind,” which omits soft warm tones and is more restrained (in a good way) than the first two songs. The concoction sounds mighty good towards the end of the song. The cracks in the recording quality makes themselves known in “Simple Girl” while “Pronoun Police” pulls off a respectable punk rock vibe towards the end of the song.
Overall, Messyanic Complex is a success but I have to say that the first half felt a lot stronger than the last half of the album. There were a number of good, even exceptional songs here that display her talent. I’m looking forward to seeing where she takes her music from here.
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