By late summer to early fall, it was all getting to be too much. I woke up every morning at the same exact time feeling disconnected. I lived in a neighborhood where I knew nobody else, I worked a job that had been distorted beyond recognition by COVID, and overall, I just felt unlike me.
In trying to build a quarantine routine, I had built a life that was completely alien and totally unacceptable, but I couldn’t see any way out. That is, until I listened to Serena Isioma’s latest EP, The Leo Sun Sets.
I wish I were exaggerating, but I’m 100% serious – tracks like “King” in particular have that kind of effect on me. Between the indie rock foundation and soulful lyrics, Isioma’s confidence-boosting pop is served on a bed of good vibes and it feels effortlessly smooth. It sounds sincere and nonchalant at the same time. When Isioma repeats “I’m the king of me” as testament to their own self-reclamation, I can’t help but feel like I have the capacity to rebuild my life and take the reins, too. “I Feel Fantastic” has a similar energy, but even more radiant.
Tracks like “I Don’t Wanna Go” and “Why Am I So Toxic” are decidedly moodier, but I can’t help but get down to the gorgeously layered beats. “I Don’t Wanna Go” feels especially nervous – between the swinging yet mellow first verse and the heart-pounding first chorus, the anxiety is palpable. How can we trust ourselves with the feelings of others when we barely have our own in check?
“When Isioma repeats “I’m the king of me” as testament to their own self-reclamation, I can’t help but feel like I have the capacity to rebuild my life and take the reins, too.”
Between the contrasting energies in “Blue Sky” and “Meadows In Japan” resides the kind of emotional conflict that Isioma wanted to highlight on this record — both tracks have super decisive energies, but their contradiction is part of her ultimate goal of mapping out the journey they’ve been on. As a listener, it’s really refreshing to hear: at one moment, Isioma knows what she wants, and in the next, they need a change of pace. While the turbulence feels tough, the way that they’re making decisions and acting accordingly is personally inspiring as I stay mired in the passivity I’ve adopted through quarantine.
The Leo Sun Sets’ closer, “Stop Calling The Police On Me,” is a poignant appeal for freedom from the oppressive structures that surround Isioma at all times — especially, as per the song’s title, the cops. Both an ACAB treatise and a call for self-determination, “Stop Calling The Police On Me” is a righteous closer on this emotional journey. In declaring that “this is not the help I need,” Isioma asserts her awareness of her own needs in a way I have been searching for in my own life.
“As a listener, it’s really refreshing to hear: at one moment, Isioma knows what she wants, and in the next, they need a change of pace.”
When Isioma released the EP in December, they prefaced on Twitter: “do whatever you want with it, it’s yours.” While the music charts their own journey, it’s been a great tool for illuminating my own path towards a more fulfilling way of life while I stay stuck under COVID. I promise that The Leo Sun Sets will light a fire under your ass, too.
Devon (he/him) is a Cleveland-based event organizer. He loves radical theory, loud guitars, and hash browns. He lives on Twitter.