Mae Powell’s debut album is the newest tonic for my inspiration


Mae Powell

The cover for Mae Powell’s debut album, Both Ways Brighter.

Recently, likely due to a three-month hiatus from my web of words, the letters on my keyboard are starting to look less and less like the friends I’ve come to know. I can hardly write, and when I do, it usually ends up in a journal I’ll never open again or a note in my Notes app that will cower and hide within the light of day.

And even though there is a simple solution—pick up the pen again—it’s much harder than that five-word phrase makes it seem. Yet, under the umbrella of an introductory AP Lit assignment and my determination not to fail my senior year, I’ve come to a crossroads at which inspiration must make haste, and when in doubt, melodies nearly always save me.

Opening up my Release Radar in an attempt to find some crumb of motivation, I was automatically met by Both Ways Brighter, the debut album of singer/songwriter Mae Powell. Though I had yet to stumble upon Powell’s music, I dove in, and the hazy, midday vibes that her tunes radiate provided me with the influence I was seeking.

The first track, “Light Beam,” begins with a reverberating and distant tune that feels like the beginning of an indie, coming-of-age film, immediately followed by the subtle strumming of a guitar. The beat could not be more perfect as an inaugural song, and Powell’s voice melds with the background to create an orange inflection that I absolutely adore.

One thing I found spectacular about this collection of songs was how each track effortlessly wove its way into the next, and nowhere is this more relevant than in between “Light Beam” and its successor, “Let’s Talk.” As a sequence of calm snapping sounds wound off the first song, the second begins in a dawn-like manner. “Let’s Talk” is a melody reminiscent of morning conversations spent over the breakfast table, company sipping on piping hot, black coffee as they recount their dreams from the previous night. It quickly became one of my favorites and brought about a stream of memories that I could use as inspiration.

Though I had yet to stumble upon Powell’s music, I dove in, and the hazy, midday vibes that her tunes radiate provided me with the influence I was seeking.”

Powell has a knack for combining vintage melodies with modern lyrics and vocals which is highlighted in the following two singles. Both “Rainbow Sweater” and “Weird Dreams” reminded me of the songs that would drift from the front seat of my mom’s car during childhood, a reminder that was welcoming and warm.

And then, like dipping one’s hands into the constellations, “Magick Love” comes sashaying onto the album. With a style that could practically put one to sleep in the best way possible, the lulling and lucid energy that this track gives off makes it one of my personal preferences. Not only that, but its overall vibe is what fueled my AP Lit assignment, and I can honestly say that I’m excited to turn in the poem that I crafted.

Closely following the inspirational undertones of track five, the next four songs ignited a desire in me to return to the freedom of summer. Akin with the air in the passenger’s seat of my sister’s mossy green Subaru Outback, the middle of this album felt like the debilitating heat of late August and the escape found within cold boba tea and refreshing discussions with kindred spirits.

Then comes track ten, which effortlessly sews together a strong melody with an even stronger message. I loved how it broke up the ariose flow of the album and got firm and compelling idea across, all while remaining a memorable anthem that people would want to listen to and learn from.

With a discordant yet similarly compelling theme, “Let the Flowers Die” reminds listeners blithely and naturally how fruitful life can be if we simply water our flowers. The beat amalgamates a strumming guitar, slight wind chimes, and layered vocals, making the song’s one-minute and forty-second time span incredibly enjoyable.

Ebbing and flowing like the river I’ve come to compare Both Ways Brighter to, the beat thereafter falls into “Catalyst,” a song that pleasantly mirrors the bedroom pop genre of music. Describing in minuscule detail the ins and outs of a certain relationship, this track felt comfortably genuine while keeping with the unconfined and appealing nature of the album.

And finally, after a 32-minute journey into the musical world of Mae Powell, the collection winds to a ceremonious close upon “Between a Pillow and a Soft Space” and “Outro,” two contrasting tracks that fuse to craft the perfect finale. While the former juggles a soft beat and ringing vocals, the latter derives lyrics and ideas from earlier in the album and couples them with an understated tune, ending on an upbeat and familiar note.

Mae Powell and her respectively golden music has made a permanent mark on my rhythmic taste and my passion for writing. Through a lense of rainbow colors, I’ve finally found the inspiration to create, and the letters on my keyboard have slowly become words again.