Portland singer/songwriter MAITA dives into her raw, vulnerable, and softly stirring new album ‘Loneliness,’ an “acoustic retelling” of her sophomore album that transforms a soaring and searing collection of songs into one of tender, emotionally exposed, and heartrending upheavals.
Stream: “Honey, Have I Lost It All?” – MAITA
I realized how much you can capture with just one person, singing the songs as they were written.
What makes a great song “great”? Many would say it’s the song’s memorability or catchiness; some might say it has to do with the lyricism, or the musical production. Still others might argue that greatness lies within a song’s bare bones – its structure – and it’s with those folks that I, too, would agree. A truly great song has the ability to hit hard, no matter how it’s performed – be it with a full orchestra, a four or five-piece band, or just one person and a guitar. The very best songwriting, in this writer’s humble opinion, shines no matter the arrangement or the production. Listen to acoustic versions of “All You Need Is Love,” “Respect,” “Billie Jean,” “When Doves Cry,” or “Brown Eyed Girl,” and you’ll find these performances resonate just as much as their full-blown counterparts – all the while evoking a different emotional response in the listener.
The same goes for all of MAITA’s new album, which she describes not just as a quiet, introspective record, but as an acoustic retelling: Achingly intimate and vulnerable, the softly stirring Loneliness breathes new life into the songs on MAITA’s 2022 sophomore album, I Just Want to be Wild for You, transforming a soaring and searing collection into one of tender, emotionally exposed, and heartrending upheavals.
This is not just metamorphosis for its own sake; this is a display of truly great songwriting at work.
Who are you?
Who’s your god? I want a piece, break one off
Where’d you find your light?
I wanna be a music box
You hold the love, it bathes you
Rose and cerulean
They believe, oh they believe…
Baby, have I lost it all?
There was honey dripping in these walls
Dry, I licked and burned my tongue
I was hasty tearing towards the sun
I see the same patterns written in everyone
I write the same pages
sitting alone in the corner of a
Bar in a town of folks I’d hate to know
Released February 17 via Kill Rock Stars, Loneliness is beautifully and brutally raw. The latest album from Portland, Oregon’s MAITA (aka Maria Maita-Keppeler) finds the indie rock singer/songwriter stripping her songs down to their barest bones, presenting an alternative approach to the eleven tracks that comprised last year’s critically-received I Just Want to be Wild for You – itself a vibrant, lush listening experience featuring a range of radiant highs and emotionally potent lows.
“We spent so much time playing the songs off of I Just Want to Be Wild For You in 2022, and while we had an incredible time bringing them to life with the full band, I found myself sometimes forgetting the subtleties and vulnerabilities of the songs that I could see more clearly when I first wrote them. We decided we wanted to try to capture them in a way that honored them as they first were,” MAITA tells Atwood Magazine. “I was reminded actually of Ruminations by Conor Oberst, and how I felt more inspired by the solo record than by the full band record he put out afterwards of those same songs. I realized how much you can capture with just one person, singing the songs as they were written.”
“Initially, we were going to record and produce folk versions of the songs with added production. We then realized, however, that it felt more raw, more real, to just track them with one guitar and a vocal, and play them together to let the singing and playing inform each other in real time. I love the way songs can breathe and stretch this way, without a metronome; imperfect. I think especially on some of the songs that were initially louder rock songs, it allows for the lyrics to be a little more exposed.”
Even the most cathartic and raucous songs on the record were once written in the private corner of a bedroom, and I think the record really brings that reality to light.
The album’s title “Loneliness” is an homage to the act of writing alone. “I need solitude to write,” MAITA explains, “so Loneliness felt like a nod to that creative state while keeping the name in the family of I Just Want to be Wild for You.”
MAITA describes Loneliness as “alive, vulnerable, and raw,” and truly there are no better words to describe the artist’s performance as she sings, accompanied only by her nylon string guitar.
The once-smoldering, glistening glow of album opener “Loneliness” takes on a more haunting hue as MAITA sings the same words in hushed tones, her deeply expressive voice an irresistible beacon of palpable emotion. “Out of the restaurant, onto the pavement, I caught my own face in a window arrangement,” she declares. “Before I could pose, tilt my chin, rest my lips I looked pissed; it’s no wonder I was left alone…” These words already hit hard in their initial form, but when sung acoustically, every word falls on the ears with incalculable weight. Like a building with an exposed interior, the power of acoustic music is such that we pay extra close attention to the words, the articulations, the subtle rises and falls of every song.
Sometimes the transition from the electric, full band version to the acoustic one is seamless and obvious; other times, that transformation is an act of true musical acrobatics. One stellar example of this is “Honey, Have I Lost it All?,” the kinetic indie rock anthem that re-emerges here as an introspective, soothing meditation. “This song was so frenzied and loud when we played it on the 2022 record and also when we performed it live all last year,” MAITA says. “I loved revisiting this one as a slower, quiet song.”
Choosing musical and lyrical favorites is always hard to do when it’s your own songs in question, and MAITA is quick to say that her favorite lines change from time to time, “as certain lyrics become repeated more and more.” Nonetheless, she says, “I like a lot of the lines from ‘Wild for You.’ Lines like winter fruit tastes like water; I don’t even bother — there’s a kind of mundaneness to the verses that belie an emotional underbelly, and working on the interplay between the two sides was really gratifying.”
As for the songs, she adds, “I really do like ‘Ex-Wife.’ It was such an unexpected song for me. It began in such a tight space, just writing about my co-worker’s ex-wife, and turned into a song that houses so many complex feelings for me. I think about my own role as a woman in relationships, about my mother’s (who also is an ex-wife) role in her marriage, and about the dynamic of marriage in general in America.”
I Just Want to be Wild for You remains a standout indie rock album full of wondrous color, heart, pure passion, and charisma.
With Loneliness, MAITA has peaked under the hood – offering a new way to hear these songs that is just as powerful, if not even more moving, than their initial presentation. This practice of re-recording is not incredibly frequent, nor is it incredibly popular, but when done right, it can be the proof-point for a songwriter’s talents. Conor Oberst did it with Ruminations and then Salutations; Sondre Lerche did it with Pleasure, and then Solo Pleasure; word even has it that Death Cab for Cutie are now doing it with their latest album, Asphalt Meadows.
MAITA has not only delivered a soul-stirring album here, but she’s also proved her prowess as an artist worth paying extra special attention to, from here on out.
“I guess I just hope listeners enjoy getting to hear another side of these songs,” she shares. “Music can be so personal and specific at the time of its writing, but so often its meaning can shift and change over the years. I think this is a beautiful thing, and I hope that people find that certain songs mean something completely different to them in this form, and that that inspires a second look at other art forms out in the world.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside MAITA’s Loneliness with Atwood Magazine as the singer/songwriter goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her new album!
Stream: ‘Loneliness’ – MAITA
:: Inside Loneliness ::
A rumination on the unexpected longing that I felt for a period of my life when I was the most lonely. The six weeks I spent in Kyoto during college were the loneliest of my life, and yet when I look back on that era, it seems rich with wistful emotion and color. I wish I could go back and live those weeks again with the perspective that there is something beautiful about being in a foreign place alone, about the conversations with oneself this environment creates.
This is the song as I wrote it: melancholic and soft, a gentle and opalescent mediation on Santa Monica and the pursuit of creativity. Though we recorded it initially as a surf rock song, this version reminds me more of the quiet, abandoned beach at 6 am where I first go my inspiration for this song, where I found myself wondering how a place so beautiful could feel so strange.
You Sure Can Kill a Sunday, Part I and II
These songs represent my attempt at writing about an argument from two sides: that of mine, and of my boyfriend. Together we ruined a Sunday over something trivial, a disagreement that poisoned the day slowly, seeping into mundane corners. The pair of songs ended up as a journey through my own various expressions of anger. I learned it can be impossible to truly write from another’s perspective; our own lenses are too thick.
I was challenged by a friend to write a song about the road, which, while feeling like a cliche, also felt like a right of passage as a touring musician. I settled upon Road Song, which literally lays out the repetition of touring in an outro that repeats over and over again. I think that’s what some people don’t realize about touring: we may be in a different place every day, but we are doing a job.
I told this song from my imagined perspective of my co-worker’s wife, a women I never met. From his side of the story, I wove hers, a voice that ended up encompassing the thoughts and desires that I believe so many wives, ex-wives, women have within their relationships.
Honey, Have I Lost it All?
This song, recorded initially as a fast-paced rocker, feels almost more weighted in its softer, acoustic state. It is a writer’s block song, in a way, a song born out of the feelings of creative inadequacy, of frustration, of jealousy. It’s also a subtle meditation on the sense of competition women face between one another in the music industry.
Light of My Life (Cellphone Song)
A straight folk song, a juxtaposition against its modern subject matter. It is a letter of love and hate and obsession towards the cellphone.
Blue Has Gone Gray
Finding peace at the end of the world. I wrote this song during a smoky summer in Portland, one of the first bad ones I can remember. Nothing brings on the feeling of impending doom like a dark sky and the smell of fire in the middle of the day. We still have such a capacity for finding hope and beauty while facing what feels like an ending of some kind, and I wanted to capture that phenomenon.
Where Do You Go?
The desire to learn everything there is to learn about your partner. This song captures the futile journey I often take myself on, one where I try to pull every hidden thought, ever secret, every story, from another person’s history. I have a keen desire to know everything, and it is one that I think cannot, and should not, every be fully satiated.
Wild For You
The penultimate chapter in a relationship. It is about the stage when one can see the end, and yet still can remember the wonders of the early days. There’s a lot of passion and pain that exists here, and I wanted to celebrate the act of feeling with this song.
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? © Anna Larina
:: Stream Maita ::