RIYL: The xx, Lana del Rey, The Neighbourhood, Bloom Twins
LIANA aren’t afraid of the dark. The duo — hailing from the Netherlands and made up of sisters Lia and Lena Göçer — specializes in dreamy pop that finds its home in shadows between dream- and synthpop. But according to the two, LIANA is much more than even that. The Göçer sisters take advantage of synthesizing a variety of styles, taking inspiration and influence from everything from “Sade, George Michael, Def Leppard, Depeche Mode and Bon Jovi” to “hip-hop, rock, soul, and jazz.” In addition, the sisters, who “are by origin Armenian/Turkish,” grew up listening to a mix of Western styles as well as Turkish music, which they still listen to “daily.”
LIANA formed after the separate bands that the sisters were in respectively folded. Realizing that their combined musical talents could take them farther, the sisters decided to start making music on their own. After several of the songs they covered started getting more and more views on YouTube, the Göçers began writing their own music and released an EP titled I’ll Rip Your Heart Out in 2014.
Their 2016 follow-up single “Hide & Seek” finds LIANA taking a walk on the darker side of pop. Both following and departing from I’ll Rip Your Heart Out, “Hide & Seek” takes LIANA’s signature feel and ramps it up several notches. Awash in synth, ornamented vocals, and ominous lyrics, “Hide & Seek” shows LIANA growing just a shade darker.
Listen: “Hide & Seek” – Liana
Right away, ambient synth gives “Hide & Seek” a foreboding feel. The feeling is compounded as Lia’s nearly-isolated vocals — reminiscent of a softened version of The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan, plus the inflections of Lana del Rey — come in with “Every night I’ve been looking for you in the woods.” As the first verse flows on, Lia’s vocals become more ornamented, soft melismas adding to the song’s dark take on baroque pop. Gentle, inconstant keys buried beneath the synth of the verses immediately preceding the chorus give the song a splash of dissonance, further adding to the song’s ominous feel. However, the lyrics accompanying the keys and synth are direct — and filled with longing. As Lia sings
I know you’ve been hiding for me
Just stop playing now hide and seek
It’s getting harder, harder to breathe
Cause lately I’ve been losing my mind
And I need you to dry my eyes
there’s a sense that there’s more to her motivations. Darkness is intertwined with longing, only furthered as the song reaches the chorus. The tempo accelerates, and both sisters sing. There’s more at stake as their longing explodes, lyrically and instrumentally. Whatever — or whoever — the sisters are looking for is out of reach, and the pain of not locating it is reflected in the frenetic burst of the chorus.
Come and take me away
Kiss me and ease my pain
More than a thousand tears I’ve cried
I’ve been losing track and time
I’ll fight an army to make you stay
The song’s darkness and feeling of heightened emotion is partly explained by the fact that — LIANA has revealed — is that it’s incredibly “personal,” about a loved one who passed away. The search for something that can fill the void is present throughout the song and the video — it’s a reaching out and expecting someone to be there, only to rest a hand on empty air, nothing. “Hide & Seek” is more than a love song — it’s a song of love, loss, and grappling with grief. The subtlety with which LIANA notes their turbulent emotions — if not for lines like “But you can’t seem to make a sound” and “Give her back, it’s been taking too long,” this could easily be taken as a song simply about an ex — speaks to how they are maturing as artists.
Watch: “Hide & Seek” – Liana
The “Hide & Seek” music video hints more at the song’s inspiration by developing a more fated tone from the first frame. From soaring peaks and stunning sublime vistas to an unknown city to a secluded forest — and finally an empty bedroom — we get the sense that this is LIANA at their most vulnerable. The phrase “dark night of the soul” seems especially fitting. The focus, shot in black-and-white, is always on one or both of the sisters traversing these various landscapes. Nobody else interacts with them, and they wander throughout what may or may not be all a dream sequence. The ambiguity — culminating in one of the girls jumping off a balcony — only serves to heighten the video’s sense of vulnerability, of a search for safety. Though it remains unresolved — furthering the song’s overall sense mystery — the image that sticks is the one of the two sisters running toward each other and embracing in the woods.
“Hide & Seek” shows LIANA at their most vulnerable. Their style has evolved to more fully and subtlety combine a range of influences for a specifically unique brand of dark, baroque, dreamy pop. LIANA’s skill in crafting dark pop that goes beyond dark pop is fully realized in the dark — but fully real — themes in “Hide & Seek.”