Photo by Jordan Humphreys, Open Aperture Photography
A wah-drenched electric guitar, traveling bass, and stereo vocals (raw on the left, delayed on the right) opens MXD MSSG’s “How Can I Lose?,” a new single about lost love, and how we try to overcome the pain of it by shrugging it off.
“It was never going to work out anyway,” or “it was just bad luck,” or “he / she never really loved me,” are all similar refrains, but they only serve to mask the deeply felt pain of rejection, offering no solace or reprieve in the immediate.
As they say, hindsight is 20/20, and in the win-some lose-most game of love and relationships, small trespasses and indiscretions are often overlooked or forgiven in the moment, especially when one has their love goggles on. In retrospect, these incidences are called up as “obvious” clues the unholy union was never meant to be. Maybe, maybe not. But when the game of love is lost, we keep churning over these reels in our mind, tormenting ourselves with thoughts of “this is the moment everything went wrong” and “if I could only go back…”
As much as we might attempt to minimize or justify the pain, it doesn’t merely go away. And the narrator’s frustrations are obvious from lines like: “I probably could have guessed but I always get this wrong / Trying to catch the rain in a lightning storm.”
The opening notes of “How Can I Lose?” hint at classic Motown R&B, or in this case, blue-eyed soul. The name Remy Shand isn’t far from my mind.
But as the midtempo tune progresses, it comes into its own. It fills out with a punchy, moving bass, lazy, swelling horns, a heavy-hitting and compressed drum beat, a second electric guitar filling the holes, keyboard effect flourishes, flute riffs, strings, scratching, and more. The many layers warrant multiple listens. And in that sense, it’s like listening to Jamiroquai. You’re not going to hear all the details and intricacies upon first listen, and that’s a good thing. The vintage-vibes-meets-modern-touches approach, in this case, pays off in droves.
Vancouver artist MXD MSSG’s voice reminds me of Calgary’s electronic musician Elijah Lucian, though that’s a reference as obscure as Google when it was still a dorm room dream, and Yahoo was at the top of the search engine game. Maybe I’m reaching, but this is what you get when you’re drawing from a deep well of knowledge and experience in independent music.
Some of MSSG’s influences are subtle, some more obvious, but filtered through his own artistic sensibilities, “How Can I Lose?” comes out sounding fresh and unique. And that’s the mark of an artist who isn’t content to wear their inspirations on their sleeve – someone who’s on a path to discovering and embracing their own artistic identity. That boldness is to be applauded and appreciated more. “Because it’s not familiar” is not a reason to avoid being challenged as a listener.
“How Can I Lose?” is subtly challenging, but in all the right ways. The rhythm section carries an easy and soothing groove you can get lost in, while the layers of echoed, questioning instruments and vocals weave in and out with color, texture, and intrigue. We know there’s more where this came from and can’t wait to see how it shapes up.