Capturing a sentiment halfway between the familiarity of nostalgia and the hopefulness of looking forward, 24-year-old artist Bel makes a cerebral splash with the debut release of her EP Muscle Memory. The five track collection exemplifies a reserved pop sound with thoughtful lyrics and exuberant musical arrangements. As the artist herself dances between the realms of singer, songwriter and producer, so does her music, incorporating a driving pop sound with hints of country, folk and indie along the way.
The principle track for the EP, “Drive” sends you along a journey where there is no destination, just the pursuit of the self and the freedom that goes as long as you can refill your car’s gas tank. The inhibition and exploration of driving along the coast, stopping wherever you please and the careful dodging of menial conversation culminate into a familiar, deliberate and carefully constructed world where you are the driver both literally and metaphorically, a direct contrast to the anxiety of fitting into contrived spaces of social construct.
“Drive” is for the people who, like me, plan their exit strategy at a party the second they arrive,” notes Bel. “It’s about taking the power back from my anxiety and prioritizing my happiness. After being at a party where I just didn’t fit in, feeling totally in my head the whole time, I reflected on why I felt the need to fit in with people I didn’t have anything in common with. It’s ultimately a song about learning how to be comfortable on my own, comfortable in my own skin.”
Opening Muscle Memory is “Something Beautiful,” a tune that builds with a carefree ebullience, emitting a shimmery, reflective display of emotional labradorescence as you sink into feelings of acceptance and universal oneness.
The songs in between “Something Beautiful” and “Drive” build a world of internal reconnection where themes of love, heartache, self-exploration and acceptance co-mingle and find themselves merging into a low humming personal revelation. In the process, things may not always be perfectly peachy, but they all serve a purpose if you’re willing to take the time to reflect and build an understanding.
“I wrote some songs about it and went on with remotely co-producing the EP with my friend, Jimmy Keeley,” Bel notes. “We built off the living room demos and were able to re-record a few parts remotely. Pushing forward and getting this EP done during one of the hardest years of my life was something that truly helped keep me sane. I’m grateful for what this project means to me and what it helped me through. It feels good to come out the other side and have these songs to give to the world.”
With soft vocals, wistful melodies and thoughtful lyrics Muscle Memory is exactly as titled — an effortless but well trained expression of life and the individual elements that make up meaning. And for Bel personally, it’s a collection of songs written over the past few years and are a reflection of all the ways she has moved forward.
“Muscle Memory is a collection of five songs I’ve written over the span of four years. From start to finish, the record tells a personal story of first love, first heartbreak, existential crisis, and finding strength and confidence on my own,” says Bel. “After years of writing and playing shows, I decided to finally start the EP recording process in 2020. I recorded some bare bones demos with my band in a friend’s living room with the goal of getting into a studio later to fully produce them. Then the pandemic hit and everything shut down. I also went through a breakup right before lockdown and was at one of my lowest points.”
Bel will continue to build engagement with her fans through Muscle Memory in the form of music videos, visualizers and live shows pegged for late summers through the fall. Catch Bel live on July 29 at Bar Lubitsch. The show is FREE with RSVP. Presented by We Found New Music, the lineup also includes ANNI, GABE JAMES, KAEYRA, HANK MAY and DJ’S – NIMA HALF MOON & SEAN THE STAR EMPEROR.
Words: Patti Sanchez