by Philip Moss
The pain behind the eyes – never before has an album cover captured all the emotion wrapped up inside a record, as Madi Diaz unleashes on her stunning fourth long player
‘I’m not proud of kicking in your bathroom door, or screaming at you “I don’t know you anymore” -when I started saying things out loud, I couldn’t take it back’ – Man in Me
Context isn’t always so important when it comes to music. Great songs are great songs. Poor songs are poor songs. And the things that have been going on in an artist’s life, although important to them, isn’t always relevant to the listener. But, on History of a Feeling, context is everything. You only have to scan the track listing to pick up on the Nashville songwriter’s involuted situation – Rage, Man in Me, Crying in Public, Woman in my Heart, New Person Old Place… the narrative’s storyboard is right there, but it doesn’t tell half the story. Written about the demise of a previous relationship – as Diaz’s partner began the process of gender transitioning – it is a raw, brutal, honest account. One filled with love, pain, anger and every emotion in between. And one that Madi Diaz has looked back on – digging into the feelings present at each step of the journey – to help construct a very special record from.
At under two minutes, and set to a melancholic, plucked guitar, Rage is the first feeling Diaz tackles on History of a Feeling. Leaving her voice exposed, every nuance of pain is felt when she sings ‘fuck you, fuck that… it doesn’t make sense – I wanna rage to erase everything.’ Andrew Sarlo’s built quite a reputation of late – producing work by the likes of Big Thief, Courtney Marie Andrews and Hovvdy – but it is what’s left out of the mix that helps to make the opener so striking.
On Man in Me, Diaz’s voice is remarkably similar to that of Phoebe Bridgers, and in other hands, or in another circumstance, this, too, could have had the indie pop crossover treatment. But, again, the production sits beautifully around Diaz’s voice. It’s filled with questions – ‘if it wasn’t real, why do I still feel it? Did we mean it at all? Tell me now whose lips was I kissing? It’s all about the lips I was kissing. The man in me, and the woman in you…” Questions that she provides her own answers to – answers that may or may not be the right answers, but that begin to provide some form of cathartic closure.
The emotions keep on crashing on Crying in Public, and Resentment sees Diaz stating how she feels ‘used’, as she she states, ‘I don’t hate you, babe, it’s worse than that.’ But as she sings, ‘what used to hurt doesn’t hurt anymore’ on New Person Old Place, there’s a warmth that matches the song’s swell of strings – a strength found through growth and resilience – that feels as though it brings the situation to a positive conclusion for all involved.
One assumes (and hopes) that making History of a Feeling was a helpful process for Madi Diaz. What her experiences have helped her to create is a record that’s more than just a collection of songs – but a document of a time in her life that will not only have made her stronger, but, in managing to navigate and balance all the complexities involved, shows her to be a stunning songwriter.
Check out our interview with Madi Diaz here.
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