With the help of talented indie producer Daniel Loumpouridis, Leila Sunier scores a winner with ‘If Only to Bleed Out the White Noise.’
•• •• •• ••
Tune into If Only to Bleed Out the White Noise by Leila Sunier and you will hear the singer enter a cappella mode to inform us of the pretty grim news: “They barred up my window to keep out the devil— a funny thing, he’s already in me.”
‘If Only to Bleed Out the White Noise’ – Leila Sunier
A basic yet ominous strumming guitar then emerges and is later joined by a thumping bass that contributes immensely to the dramatic effect of this album opener “Cut a Smile.” Using a nifty echo effect that she will go on to employ several times across the album, Sunier half-sings, half-whispers, more details of her ongoing paranoia: “Do you see a shadow? Do you feel it grow? Hanging on my shoulder, clutching at my collarbone.” By the final passage of the song, as this daunting situation continues to build, we are going head-first through some loud and thunderous rock terrain that make that gentle guitar strumming seem far more distant than a mere two minutes earlier.
In some sense, “Cut a Smile” establishes a shared template for the rest of If Only to Bleed Out the White Noise, the debut EP from the Colorado singer who currently resides in Los Angeles. Like the opening track, much of this album chronicles various aspects of Sunier’s inner turmoil, while also shifting between a number of genres and styles within each individual track. Such is the joy in crafting alternative music, an area in which “noise isn’t an inherent no” and where “you have the freedom to communicate what sonic impurities might emotionally convey.” Whatever she feels like incorporating for the sake of an engaging new song, so be it.
Searing at my lungs
You drape your arm around me
And searing at my tongue
Are the words I swallow
They sour like nicotine
You’re not right for me
And I’m not for you
But the oxygen is leaving
Gravity closed the door to this room
And closer we move
Watch: “Let Me” – Leila Sunier
Immediately following “Cut a Smile” is “Let Me,” a song Sunier recorded last year during her final semester as a music theory & composition student at the University of Miami and which has also now been released as the EP’s debut single. Track #2 largely follows the basic blueprint established by its predecessor, in the sense that it also shifts from gentle acoustics to soaring electropop while covering sensitive ground for the singer-songwriter: the predicament of “being attracted to someone who would be terrible for you.”
Two visual accompaniments to the song are worth checking out as well: the traditional music video, directed by UCLA film student Jessica Klearman, as well as a “speed paint visual” in which Sunier can be seen in fast-motion visualizing the California desert set that appears in the “Let Me” clip. The latter project represents a fusion of Sunier’s two artistic talents: she’s been a committed painter since she was a teenager, but eventually picked up music as well, on the grounds that “music is collaborative, and I thought if I only painted I would forever be alone.”
Sure enough, Sunier has been able to collaborate aplenty as a musician. On If Only to Bleed Out the White Noise, her primary creative partner has been Daniel Loumpouridis, a Chicago-born indie producer who also operates under the stage name Small Talk. Loumpouridis’ contributions perhaps come across most vividly on the third song and second single “Ghost” which combines Sunier’s signature preference of indie-folk with “the experimental elements of noise and metal, and the authentic heartache of country-blues and vintage jazz.”
Lyrically, “Ghost” explores the early stages of a relationship that had a promising beginning but now is merely a memory, though the feeling of it lingers on (“Still like a cigarette, I’m hanging from your lips, I’ll be your ghost,” goes the refrain). It’s a pretty tough topic, but Sunier is all about using her music to venture into thematic territory that she might otherwise feel less comfortable approaching. As she herself says on her SoundCloud page, “Certain emotions are best left unsaid. But I sing them anyway.”
And so she sings some more on “A Little Longer,” which details how the once-promising romantic situation alluded to in “Ghost” has now deteriorated to the point where Sunier is now doing anything she can to get her ex-lover out of her head—and songwriting seems to be doing the trick. “Writing about something gives you the power to distill and understand information so that you can ultimately move forward and learn from it,” she explains. In any case, this approach does provide meaningful fodder for this particular track.
The final full-length song on the album, “Young Thing,” is another examination of Sunier’s own demons. We are presented with a character who is suffering from insomnia and has to make an effort to stop living her life askew or else her personal problems will “come kick me down ‘til I bruise.” This is also another instance of a song on this album in which the first half sounds a whole lot different from the second half. While Sunier sings over casual acoustics for the first couple minutes, she then steps aside to let Loumpouridis work his magic with an alternative beat that then dissolves into a static beeping sound.
Watch: “Ghost” – Leila Sunier
That beeping, in turn, leads into a brief and quiet outro, one which gives Sunier produces a few final thoughts on the ghosts which she’s detailed across much of this project, which was even called “Ghosts of Myself” at one point. Turns out, she’s come to view these ghosts kind of the way the characters The Shawshank Redemption see the walls of their prison: first, you hate them, then you get used to them, then you start depending on them. “I don’t quite want them to leave,” she says. “I’m used to their company.”
Maybe inner turmoil can be worked out, after all. In any case, it sure is satisfying to see Sunier and Loumpouridis make a promising creative statement with their first joint project. The white noise does indeed seem to have been bled out, and the sounds of a talented duo working productively together on quality music have thankfully taken its place.
— — — —
📸 © Leila Sunier
If Only to Bleed Out the White Noise
an EP by Leila Sunier