- Maryse Smith, Silence Is Golden
It's pure synergy that singer-songwriter Maryse Smith has released her new EP at the peak of foliage season. Soft, unhurried and contemplative, the album embodies the physiological slowdown the world experiences as it gradually tilts away from the life-giving center of our solar system. Silence Is Golden is quintessential autumn listening.
Smith is a formerly Burlington-based artist who had significant local buzz in the early 2010s. She released her 2015 album, The Way It Is, through then-nascent studio Future Fields, which was associated with many other Queen City hot tickets at the time, including Caroline Rose, the Lynguistic Civilians and Madaila.
Now based in West Tisbury, Mass., on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Smith hasn't released any new music in the past seven years. Her new seven-track release showcases the sum total of her creative output since 2015.
"I've had pretty substantial writer's block since then," Smith explained by email.
Smith experienced a slowdown only if one assumes that artists should constantly churn out content for hungry consumers. She explained that her retreat from music was unintentional and that two pregnancies kept her occupied in the interim. She eked out one song per year since her last album, hardly a satisfying output, she explained. Echoes of her artistic struggle reverberate in her intonations and exhalations throughout the EP.
Smith enlisted her good friend and fellow Burlington expat Ryan Power to produce Silence Is Golden. Power builds a glowing aura around Smith's voice and acoustic guitar, enhancing the core of her alt-folk work with light accoutrements such as warm background vocals, trembling drums and cindery synths.
The songs are like snapshots that gradually tell the story of someone in a transitional phase. "What's the point of trying when I can't even pick you up?" Smith asks her guitar on "Be That Way Again." There's no trace of anger in the song ("I'm not pining for the past / I'm just noting the difference"). Rather, Smith makes peace with her artistic ambivalence while simultaneously proving she hasn't completely lost her spark.
Smith's fingers strum quickly on the road-tripping "Tough Kind of Love," mimicking mile markers and yellow dotted lines that stream past a car window. "Swear I got the devil in me sometimes / It don't mean I don't want to treat you right." The song is about her marriage, but I can imagine the trials of parenthood eliciting a similar attitude.
Smith and Power find perfection on the penultimate track, "Stars." Amplifying all the elements from the preceding tracks, the song builds to an airy, sighing hook that rolls through complex chord changes.
Silence Is Golden is personal and personable. Smith's energy is cordial and inviting, even if, once we join her around the bonfire, she tells us some hard truths. Though the EP chronicles a struggle, Smith noted that it has a happy ending: She's writing again.
Silence Is Golden will be available at marysesmith.bandcamp.com on Wednesday, October 19.