Album Review: Thanya Iyer — “KIND”

Posted: by The Editor

Every single sound on KIND, the new LP from Montreal songwriter Thanya Iyer, is arranged just so. A plinking guitar against a backdrop of chirping birds and creaking crickets on “I Woke Up (In The Water).” A perfectly placed synthesizer rippling pleasantly across “Into the Water.” An expressionistic assortment of horns on “Look up to the Light.” All of it creating a type of sure, slow, steady movement, a fusion of indie, ambient, and soft jazz music that twinkles and tiptoes toward an uncertain destination, an expedition focused on reflection and growth. 

And at the center of all these meticulous but airy compositions is Iyer, her voice breathing out nuggets of advice and invocations of strength that reach for universality but feel very close to her chest. “Make the choice to get better,” she sings, so lightly and easily in one song. “Teach me how to live,” she asks honestly in another. 

KIND is a record that alters the mood of the room, demands attention in a way that implores calm focus. A certain sound will draw you in, like Iyer’s textured, gorgeous “ahhhs” in “Bring Back That Which is Kind to You,” but you’ll find your attention bouncing around the track, tracing the contours of the soft, deep bass groove and tracking the flurry of strings and flutes that intermittently waft in and out of view. And through all of these intricate layers of sound, Iyer communicates a message of patience with herself and with the world around her. “Walk the borders/ wait for the sun to finally rise,” she sings with conviction in “Let the Smoke Clear,” letting each syllable punctuate powerfully, dedicating a moment to each word, giving each thought appropriate space to breathe.

Listening to KIND feels like traversing a number of disparate landscapes in solitude. Throughout the album, Iyer narrates a process of learning to overcome the obstacles that may arrive across those landscapes. On “Please Don’t Hold Me Hostage for Who I Am, For Who I Was,” Iyer summons the fortitude to carry on through this introspective journey. When she repeats the song’s title, it sounds less like a plea and more like an admission that anyone, including herself, would be wrong to ignore the ways she has grown and changed. “Please Don’t Hold Me Hostage” is also the closest that KIND gets to a pop song, with a hook that gets caught in a calming, repetitive cycle in the corners of your brain. Here, two concurrent, interlacing synth beats set a swift pace through a song laced with woodwinds and delicate drums. 

One of the most memorable tracks on KIND is “Alien,” which has a ghostly kind of energy to it as Iyer grapples with the notion of connection with the rest of the world—”Bring me down to earth,” she yearns with minimal adornment. The second half of this song lifts off into a realm of rising, inscrutable sound that resists easy resolution. Like many of KIND’s songs, “Alien” broadly gestures toward an idea and leaves plenty of empty space to be filled in with our own understandings of the world and ourselves. One of Iyer’s key strengths is that this approach veers away from generic platitude by placing the emphasis on the gesture itself. In these songs, Iyer and her cast of impressive contributing musicians bring to the table a strong, distinct impressionism, and it makes for one of the most interesting and genuinely affecting indie records in recent memory. KIND invites us to a constantly moving sonic space that holds a mirror up to our own experiences.


Jordan Walsh | @jordalsh

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