Armed with nothing but a Ukulele and a songbook of heartaches, California’s Maggie Huang – aka Maggery – gives to the coffee pot overspill that is the stripped-back singer-songwriter scene a stand-out set of songs that demand your attention in the subtlest of ways.
Living Inside Of You is, at its core, another set of sad songs about sad moments in an otherwise happy life, and yet past its surface, it’s so much more. Across its seven songs, Living Inside Of You is the melancholic soundtrack to the nights you spend alone in your bed, picking at all of your flaws, tormenting yourself when there’s no need. It’s the soundtrack of the side of love movies don’t romanticise; the introspective private moments where everything’s not as the Instagram selfie seems.
On Are You Happy, Maggery narrates the negotiation of unrequited feelings, of two people feeling two separate things, but in a way that is so painfully relevant to the plights of this generation its powerful yet delivered with such delicacy by her honey-soaked vocals: “One thing’s for sure, I am helplessly in love, can’t lie about that; but what’s the point if I can’t give enough. Are you happy, or are you saying you are for me?” You could argue that much of this record is made up of simple lines, but they’re the truths of a relationship so many of us navigate day in and day out that with the sweetness of the vocals becomes something magical.
There’s an uncanny ironic juxtaposition between the thematic sadness of the record and the sonic happiness in the sweetness of its sound. The Ukulele is an underrated musician in modern music, reserved for folk balladeers and Finnish metal bands, and yet here it sits perfectly between the beauty of Maggery’s harmonies and the heartbreak of her lyrics. It’s understated, and it’s subtle, and each stroke is strummed like the swish-swash of a paint brush. On Favorite Person and Orange, it provides a sense of subtly to the music that sets it apart; if there were additional instruments the sentiment of the songs would get lost in a flood of unnecessary noise. It’s hard to imagine a line so hopefully hopeless as “I pretend at night you’re still next to me, I still hear your voice, I still feel your warmth, the only difference is I’m not happy anymore” delivered with anything more than the quietness of the Ukulele and the softness of Maggery’s voice, which is why songs like We Weren’t Nothing stand out among the overcapacity crowd that is the singer-songwriter scene.
Living Inside Of You presents itself with a problem; how does one progress as a musician without tearing apart a formula that works so well. It would be redundant to say that another seven-song set just like this would suffice, and yet you know that there is far more potential to be found. Living Inside Of You is good – it’s got heartbreak, it’s got beauty, it’s got realism – but it could be great, it’s just where would the songs go next? The question, quite painfully, is: how do you maintain such raw beauty in a more polished package?
With this collection of songs however, Maggery presents a case for breaking apart from the Bandcamp/Soundcloud generation, situating herself somewhere between the desperate indie-folk of Fenne Lily and the rebellious bedroom indie-pop of Soccer Mommy – both broke away from the boundaries of Bandcamp this year.