by Mike LeSuer (@mike_lesuer)
For some reason, the decades-long debate over the vitality of rock music has largely eschewed the incredibly broad genre of metal, a category of music that has been healthily progressing while recycled pop-rock comes in and out of style. By blending various elements of traditional genres—like folk, electronic, or jazz—or something a bit more niche within rock—math rock, shoegaze—the Ulvers and Panopticons of the world are creating unique music at a breakneck pace, yet are still going unnoticed by listeners outside the metal community.
Among the artists drawing on shoegaze to lure listeners into the discographies of hard-hitting labels like Relapse and The Flenser is Kristina Esfandiari, whose band King Woman produces a specimen of doom metal that borrows heavily from the wispy atmospherics of dream pop. Leaning even harder into the realm of shoegaze is Esfandiari’s solo work as Miserable, which often feels like King Woman with the foundation knocked out from under it, permitting more focus on the singer’s smoky vocals and less interference for her gritty tales of love in the time of Kavanaugh.
Although Loverboy / Dog Days opens with a distinctly King Woman metal dirge, it winds down to pure shoegazing bliss by its dreamy closer. Likewise, the double EP is split between vengeful recollections of bad romances and breezy poems considerably less bent on storytelling. The fact is that both halves were conceived and recorded during entirely different periods—not to mention on two different coasts. But the result is a surprisingly cohesive collection of songs that naturally evolve from complex feelings of frustration and confusion (“Is my body even mine?” Esfandiari questions on “Pain Farm”) into interstellar longing (“Oh, I like you,” concludes the impenetrable fog that is “Kiss”).
In a similar fashion to King Woman’s getting lost in droning, atmospheric digressions, Loverboy / Dog Days sees a seething Esfandiari losing herself to an intoxicating dreamstate. What holds the record together is Miserable’s roots in metal, which show through in the album’s smooth transition from what would be straightforward grunge and dream pop were it handled by anyone outside of the innovative realm of metal songwriting. It’s shoegaze told through a doom metal emotional palette—a unique spectrum that would make any well-worn genre sound fresh again.