“Night after night I lie awake in my bed while these dreams turn to stones in spite of me,” vocalist Lindsay Pitts sings on “Medusa,” the title track off of her duo GEMS’ debut EP. The DC dream pop outfit creates music that seeps into your pores in the late hours of the night. Not only does their dark yet free-flowing music feel steeped in midnight mystery, but the themes portrayed on their four-track EP reflect the insecure musings deep in your head as you snuggle further under the covers. These are the thoughts that keep you up, the sounds that keep your mind flowing without over stimulating.
GEMS’ music feels like part of a modern mythology, only instead of death and violence, it is the torment of love that keeps the pot stirred. It isn’t surprising that the duo picked up on this fact, naming their songs and even the EP itself after Greek stories and words with Greek origin. Their journey through the trials of growing up and the exploration of love in all its splendor and heartache is almost the emotional equivalent of The Odyssey, albeit not quite as epic. Throughout Medusa we experience pain, wistful longing, nostalgia, and love. Although the group is still exploring themselves and figuring out their style — many of the songs can seem a bit repetitive when bulked together as one piece — it is apparent that the band’s sound conveys their thematic desires well.
“Medusa” is clearly the EP’s shining glory. The beautiful synth blossoms as Pitt’s dynamic vocals flow passionately, creating an expansive and emotion-ridden sound. “I used to feel so free, the way we used to be / time got away from me,” she sings, her voice and lyrics portraying wistful melancholy. Although fellow band mate Clifford John Usher coos, “If you cry out I’ll be there now,” the offer seems to be of no use to Pitt’s character. “No will to fight and I’m trapped in my head / all these dreams become haunted memories,” she sings before the song ends with a heart-wrenching, breathy repeat of “you’re so far away.”
The album as a whole provides beautiful vocals and glowing synth. Although at times it feels like GEMS is fighting hard to hold their ground, the talent that lies below the surface is apparent. Their nostalgic “Ephemera” portrays utter longing: “I need you now / more than you know / so take my hand / and don’t let go.” “Pegasus” aches: “I can’t turn away right now / while everything we build falls down.” Both members singing “I’ve given all that I can, it’s not enough” embodies the pure torment of love. It takes a twisted, darker turn. “Oh love, if we find it, will it set me free? / The darkness is following, swallowing me.” The heartache is tangible.
“Sinking Stone” has more fight to it: “Could you ever love me again? / I need to know / our love’s not a sinking stone.” With these lyrics in mind, you notice that throughout the EP GEMS describes the weight of love and life through the use of stones and other heavy imagery. Although the title “Sinking Stone” does not directly correlate with mythology, it does bring to mind the story of the flood of Deucalion in which Zeus bids Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha to repopulate the world by throwing stones behind them as they walked on. Deucalion’s stones transformed into men. Pyrrha’s into women. And as the all-knowing Wikipedia explains, “The Bibliotheca gives this as an etymology for Greek Laos ‘people’ as derived from laas ‘stone’.” These inherently heavy objects give way to the weight of people, both literally and figuratively.
Although it’s unclear if this was GEMS’ intention when naming the song, hearing the story puts the album itself in an interesting context. The storytellers, the stones, are trying to keep their heads afloat and not succumb to the sucking weight of the brutality of love and life that plagues them from the inside. Through shimmering lines of transfixing sound layered with gossamer of gloom, the members of GEMS reveal their insecurities, hopes, and fears as they try furiously to fight away their dark fate and avoid completely falling down the rabbit hole.
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