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Album Review: Maya Hawke – Chaos Angel

2 min read

Maya Hawke’s musical career began at a time where the world was looking for new artists to latch onto. Her debut, 2020’s Blush came amidst the pandemic, elevated not only by her status as a cast member on Stranger Things but by the events taking place. Since then she has continued to explore and expand her sound, and has now come out with what is her boldest, and arguably her most creative, album to date, Chaos Angel.

The album begins with the lethargic Black Ice, made up predominantly of acoustic guitars, brushed drums, and Maya’s subdued but characterful voice. Layers of voices building up towards the climax, creating a warm wall of sound. Its topped and tailed by voice notes talking philosophically about a topic that isn’t quite obvious on first listen, but fits thematically in the song. Dark appears to take on a similar sonic pallet at first, but then erupts at the halfway point with distorted guitar riffs and a punchy beat. Missing Out continues the tempo, Maya bordering on rap with the amount of lyrics she manages to fit into the first verse especially. Its a peppy country-pop tune that proves itself as an early standout track on the record.

Wrong Again and Okay are evolving mid-tempo pieces, the latter embracing harmonised vocal passages and a mix of distorted solos and flourished of string and other percussive elements, while the former is a more typical indie ballad with a sweet melody and interesting guitar passes. Better is an out-of-nowhere interlude, featuring Maya and a group of vocalists under heavy autotune creating a vocoder pad effect that is satisfying to the ear despite being a strange inclusion. Big Idea and Hang In There are two gorgeous tracks that reinforce the strongest elements of Maya’s songwriting, while Promise returns to the simplicity of the openers beginning. Closer and title track Chaos Angel ends things on a low-key note, piano led and mellow, before building up the instrumentation to a suitably chaotic conclusion.

Chaos Angel isn’t a bold step for Maya in terms of her sound or her songwriting, but such big steps didn’t need to be taken. The collection of songs on offer are beautiful, well-made, and at times emotionally potent. Though a few swings have been taken that may or may not pay off depending on how they are perceived by the individual, there’s no denying that these songs are worth your time.

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