Artwork for Meg Myers’ ‘TZIA’ - Myers sitting in a glass ball with the top removed

If you’re familiar with Meg Myers at all, it’s probably from her 2019 cover of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill that actually did rather well on the US rock charts. Yes, predating that episode of Stranger Things and the unstoppable sluice of cash-ins in its wake was Myers, a feat of visibility that she previously never had or has replicated since. She’s actually been releasing music since 2011, mostly in indie-rock but dabbling with the more processed, leaden tones that you could argue made her ahead of the curve even then. Going through her back catalogue, there is a rather clear throughline there for where mainstream indie and alternative music would end up in the subsequent decade.

Though while that might seem impressive, they aren’t creative impulses that have proven all that appealing. If anything, you can view it as a predecessor to the reign of terror that Imagine Dragons wreaked on rock music for about half a decade. They took pretty much every bullet (and not undeservedly), but Myers’ roots were already laid well before, to where, for those coming in exclusively from her cover, TZIA mightn’t seem too out of place from an artist of her standing. She’s now a hitmaker coming off her greatest bout of success yet, so embracing maximalist, superficially forward-thinking ‘genrelessness’ to keep the ball rolling is a given.

And like with practically everyone else in the same position, it just doesn’t work. Instead of feeling creatively free and expressive, TZIA winds up more in the moulds of grandson of K.Flay, where each individual piece in service of little more than getting everything to grind along. This should be a meaty listen at 15 tracks, but meat is the kind of organic material that TZIA doesn’t have the luxury of possessing. It’s ice-cold and mechanical for the vast majority; when it’s not, like on MY MIRROR or OVARIES SPEAK, it’s a result of jettisoning all of that in favour of a ‘90s alt-rock bent that’s so far removed. Compare that creative ethos with how the album opens with CHILDREN OF LIGHT II, for instance, and the difference is astonishing. In the glances at grunge and a thudding tension inside it, there’s real energy; in a bleak, barren clunker under the false impression that it’s weighty and cinematic, there’s nothing of the sort.

It utterly craters anything close to good pacing this album might’ve otherwise had, as the crank turns slowly and straining to actually move Myers’ gallumphing ponderousness. It seldom sticks or experiences momentum in more than a passing glance, and that bizarrely feels out of choice. That’s clearest to see on the cover of Linkin Park’s NUMB, where the added sighs and sense of vocal nerviness are pretty good to have onboard, but the weird collage of plucked strings, restrained, iced-out reverb and the jerking percussion is a far cry from any intensity or catharsis from the original.

Clearly Myers wants to lay this out as some kind of stripped-bare confession, maybe even embracing an artlessness to get her there. But when she’s also looking to make something cogent within modern alt-pop, with an unwillingness to throw all of that aside as would most likely be necessary, it’s no surprise she doesn’t get there. TZIA is such a halfway-house of an album because that’s all it can be. Below an ‘unconventional’ style, the roots are no different from so many others in her lane, in reflections on past traumas and self-exploration that don’t pierce in the way she wants. If anything, the reason that I JUST WANNA TOUCH SOMEBODY stands out more than most is because the titular line is such an awkward way of phrasing the desire to inspire or positively impact someone.

To Myers’ credit though, at least she fits this kind of sound as the singer she is. How much of a compliment that is is pretty subjective, but it is something, in an art-pop sense of individuality and quirkiness regardless of how much she elicits thoughts of other artists. There are shades of Halsey, Alanis Morissette, Sia, Katy Perry and maybe about a half-dozen more crammed in there, and averaging out to a vocal performance that’s big on range in a way that can struggle to know what to do with itself. Like with the odd inflections at the end of certain lines on T33NAGERS, TZIA is open to whatever decision Myers may stumble upon, and there’s something of a lack of quality control to that. It probably seems obvious now after all those other grievances have been aired, but you’ll notice how distracting forward Myers is mixed, or how certain vocal techniques and timbres slide in and out of each other in messy ways.

And when all of that happens, the ideas at the centre of TZIA begin to slip away. There’s always a feeling of what Myers hopes to achieve with this, but she doesn’t advance closer to it; if anything, she’s more liable to lay out roadblocks as the album progresses and subsequently winds up all the more hard to fathom. At least someone like Halsey can take big swings without alienating a pop tightness and focus, and when comparing the two, Myers feels a million miles away from that. This isn’t all that enjoyable just on a surface level, but sifting through layers of baffling production choices and weird, roundabout solutions to problems that are barely there makes it even less so. By the end, the primary course of action is to reflect on just how gruelling the marathon to get there was.

For fans of: Halsey, Melanie Martinez, MS MR

‘TZIA’ by Meg Myers is released on 24th March on Sumerian Records.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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