Album: Learning to Exist
Release Date: May 14, 2021
Learning to Exist is the newest EP from Vancouver-based artist, Madisyn Gifford. The nineteen-year-old artist wrote the seven-track EP over the course of two years (17-19).
Learning to Exist is strangely mature and nostalgic for such a young artist. This is in large part due to Madisyn’s introspective lyrics which, as the artist notes herself, are “all about moving in and out of interpersonal relationships and the feelings that surround moving from adolescence into young adulthood…[as she] quite literally wrote them in an effort to learn how to exist as a young adult and also get [her] footing as an artist.” Learning to Exist establishes its sentimentality early with the first track, Without You. Without You has a dream pop aesthetic that focuses on a lost childhood romance. Later tracks might move into more vibrant, energy-driven pop, while others take on notes of classic R&B, but the EP as a whole never loses that established ‘wistfulness.’ Also adding to the ‘maturity of Learning to Exist is the excellent production of the album. Each track on the EP builds a complex soundscape: mixing Madisyn’s airy & effortless vocals with synths, samples, guitars, drums, and other instruments. Learning to Exist already seems like the work of a sophisticated and well-established artist — which makes the future of her career shine that much brighter.
Standout tracks for me on Learning to Exist were “Voulez-Vous”, “Black Coffee”, and “Already Gone”. “Voulez-Vouz” starts quiet but soon bursts with a funky beat that borders on mischievous. This song would make a good club track as Madisyn tells a lover that, though she might be drunk, she can clearly see they were never good for her, and after this next drink, she’s going home without them for good.
“Black Coffee” heavily features an amazing piano accompaniment that gives the track an almost Motown vibe. Here Madisyn teases a lover for not liking ‘Black Coffee;’ which might as well be like not liking Madisyn’s own complex, sometimes bitter, form of love. Later in the track, “Black Coffee” even folds in a xylophone to add an impish sarcasm to the track. Already Gone is an exceptionally bittersweet song that layers a somber melody with an upbeat one as Madisyn mourns the loss of not just a relationship – but the feelings of heartache over losing the relationship. All that seems to be left is the numb realization that both parties are “done here” and “already gone.”
I grew up in Alberta, but spent most of my life in British Columbia – I also spent a lot of my summers in Britain as I was lucky enough to have immigrant parents with the capital to go visit our relatives. The amount of time I spent overseas makes it hard for me to say I feel fully Canadian, but it does make me feel typically Canadian as so many of us have mixed parentage. My parents defined another divide in me as I feel inexorably pulled to both science and the art; my father being a doctor and my mother being a school teacher. I studied both in university and now work on making healthcare software during the day, then write/read/draw/paint/dance in my evenings. My global wanderings, my education, and the fact that my appetite for media could be described as ‘voracious’ means my frame of reference is pretty varied. It’s hard to say that I have a favourite music genre, rather I am always seeking sounds that convey a sense earnestness an honesty.