I am a weird mix of vulnerable and reserved, a concoction of contradictions that doesn’t even make sense to me most of the time. Like everyone else, I feel like no one could possibly get me sometimes. Until I put my Spotify on shuffle and a Mal Blum song pops up. Every lyric they sing, every reverberating guitar solo and quirky metaphor, skips straight through my ear drum and into my soul. From their poignant, wistful “Iowa” and hopeful, honest “Better Than I Was,” I genuinely believe Mal Blum and I could sit in a shabby diner for hours, sipping coffee and talking about our parallel experiences. Sure, I might be radically off-base in that sentiment, but that’s the power of music. It pulls you to a place ordinary life dares not venture and knows you better than you know yourself.
Mal has written lyrics that I cannot describe as anything other than feelings I have never been able to articulate. One of my favorites is, “Turn up the heat, turn up the heat/Please, get out the kitchen you’re like vegan cheese/Try as I might you never melt for me,” and another is, “You said I tasted like pain to you/I think that it’s just a mood/But I hope it starts leaving soon.” Even Mal’s feature in “Crying at the Wawa” leaves a huge smile on my face without neglecting the pieces of life that we need to talk about (e.g. mental health). Other lyrics discuss sleeping in parking lots and fortune tellers, both mechanisms which explore red flags in past relationships, our own doubts about the love we give, and a pulsating hope that someday we will find ourselves living a life that feels whole.
On Feb. 15, Mal Blum stuck me yet again with their first new music since 2015. They released a single called “Things Still Left to Say,” and, oh boy, was I ready to listen. Mal has this ineffable way with words that makes even simple phrases reach new depths, and I think the universe has a way of bringing their music into my life just when I need to listen. By some fluke, I didn’t find “Things Still Left to Say” until a few days ago, which happened to be when I needed to hear it most. Questions like “what’s a home?” or “why does everybody else feel closer to me than I can feel to them?,” however difficult those questions might be, are the kind of doubts left burning on the tip of your tongue. They’re the questions you tuck yourself into bed with and forget about in the morning as if they were only a fading nightmare, but their answers are the ones that add a little clarity to life.
Mal does more than ask the tough questions. Somehow, they share their strength. Sometimes we feel defeated. Exhausted. Those times, it’s hard to believe in even something as seemingly small as the next day, but we go on. Why? Because “there are things still left to say.” Despite the hardship and the doubt, we go on because we haven’t finished yet. It’s as simple and mystifying as that.