In Miya Folick’s new record Roach, she doesn’t refer to the album’s title until halfway through the tracklist. The song is “Cockroach,” a self-produced ripper that starts with droning synthesizers and bursts into dizzying drums. She sings “Crush me under the weight / Bitterness, jealousy, hate / Cause I’m a fucking cockroach and you can’t kill me.” It’s a fitting image, dropped right into the middle of an album that stares you straight in the eye. On Roach, Miya shares her ugliness, her joy, her struggle, all of it, and does so in a way that lets you know it’s okay. That there’s going to be messiness, but she’ll get through it, and that’s okay.
Since her critically acclaimed debut album, Premonitions, came out in 2018, Miya has been through quite a bit of messiness and struggle. She quit drugs. She went through a breakup. She left her previous label (Interscope/Terrible) and signed with a new one (Nettwerk). She struggled to make this follow up record into what she wanted it to be, building and rebuilding each song, throwing away some full productions when she didn’t feel they were right. And just as she was finally figuring out this new record, her father suddenly passed away. The final pieces of the record were put together as Miya moved through her grief. With earworm melodies, straight-shooting poetry, and genre-hopping production, Roach documents the head-spinning highs and soul-crushing lows of one woman’s bumpy, imperfect life. Says Miya, “It’s an album about resilience, growth, and honesty. It’s about trying to get to the core of what life really is.” The title pays homage to Clarice Lispector’s The Passion According to GH, a 1964 novel that heavily influenced Miya’s writing and thinking. “That book made me understand something about myself. This sense that I am always quivering. That somehow simple things feel huge and hard for me. There’s beauty in that sense of agitation but also danger.” Roach is something of a coming-of-age story housed inside a tilt-a-whirl. “I think over the course of writing this record, I actually did the work and got closer to the person that I really want to be,” she explains, “But that path isn’t linear, I still have moments where I disappoint myself, where I’m angry with myself. That’s why the album might feel a bit emotionally dizzying. It’s not a straight path.” Premonitions was rightly praised for how it showcased Miya’s arresting, athletic, once-in-a-lifetime voice. As soon as it was completed, though, Miya knew there was a deeper and more honest place she wanted to live, lyrically. Some of the language on Premonitions she describes as “a bit opaque,” saying, “I was writing from a place of fear. I didn’t want to look at myself directly, so I created lyrical obscurities. It felt like I was masking my insecurities with poetry. Putting Premonitions out into the world and singing those songs on tour made it very clear to me that I wanted to make songs where I was not hiding.” She was determined for her subsequent project to be more direct and honest, an aesthetic dealbreaker that begot a great deal of in-studio trial and error, with Miya eventually recruiting behind-the-scenes personnel who brought out the best in her and in the music, including Gabe Wax (War on Drugs, Fleet Foxes), Mike Malchicoff (King Princess, Bo Burnham), Max Hershenow (MS MR), and a team of some of LA’s best players. The resulting album feels incredibly intimate. “When my best friends listen to this record they’re like, This is you,” Miya says. “This is what it’s like to hang out with you.” Listening to the finished songs — which are earnest and raw, with plenty of huge hooks and dark comedy — it’s immediately obvious that all the effort and experimentation was worth it. “Bad Thing,” which Miya co-wrote with Mitski and Andrew Wells and produced with Gabe Wax, is a paradoxically blissed-out burst of dancefloor-ready melancholia, its frank lyrics about the hazards of hedonism
functioning like a thesis statement for Roach’s narrative of personal transformation: “This time I will take it slowly / Say no to everything I don’t need.” Here, and all across the record, Miya’s percussive diction steers the song’s momentum, proof that her voice is a singularly prolific instrument, even when it’s not doing gravity-defying acrobatics. Roach is an exhilarating mix of sounds and styles, an eclecticism that reflects Miya’s increased writerly confidence and playful disposition. With its pulsing drums (Sam KS), head-banging guitars (Greg Uhlmann), and unflinching lyrics, “Get Out of My House” is pure punk catharsis, a better-off-without-you breakup song designed for thrashing around your bedroom like no one’s watching. Otherworldly saxophones (Sam Gendel) and a soulful bass (Sam Wilkes) bring magic to “Mommy”, a song that Miya self-produced in her bedroom and then brought to Gabe Wax for the finishing touches. “Mommy” is a folky trip-hop meditation on ancestry. The Matias Moraproduced “Cartoon Clouds” is glitchy bedroom-pop, delicate and handmade with a beat that will hit you square in the chest. “I felt like people wanted me to choose one, ‘Either you’re indie girl or you’re pop girl,” Miya says, reflecting on past production experiences. “But I don’t think those distinctions matter anymore; I just want a song to feel true to itself.” The Chicago songwriter Gia Margaret adds piano to the acoustic atmosphere of “Ordinary,” a soulful track that recalls Mazzy Star’s wide-open dream-folk. “Our life is small but it’s big enough for me,” Miya croons, over a bed of lush bass (Patrick Kelly). It’s an ode to a less-chaotic way of living. Like a lot of creatively restless minds, Miya has always felt drawn to intensity: intense emotions, intense people, intense experiences. These new songs aren’t about banishing that excitement from her life — they celebrate finding it in more tender, more forgiving places. “Rather than finding joy in rushing into things, I’m finding joy in patience, in quiet, in getting to know somebody slowly. I’m letting myself pause,” she explains. “Tetherball,” a sweeping song that begins with Miya’s vocal alone and builds into a churning dance beat with hooky synths, is the second time Miya invokes the album’s title. But this time it’s a quieter triumph. It’s an image of Miya sitting in a car, curled up like a roach, finally speaking her truth, asking for another start. Above all, Roach is a tribute to perseverance, to messiness, to stillness, to resilience. It’s a real achievement — a gorgeous, labored-over time capsule of life’s pains and joys.
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