What does it mean to construct an understanding of selfhood when you feel as though you have never truly seen a self you could aspire to reflected back at you from a screen, a page, a lyric sheet? Emily McNally positions this interrogation at the center of their new single, “so sad (guess that’s why).” It is a question that functions more like a secret, beckoning at the back of the mix with the pulsing percussion. One of my favorite things about McNally is that she has recorded, mixed, and mastered her last two releases entirely on her iPhone. Their ability to produce art that feels so full and bursting from a device made to fit in the palm of one’s hand is almost as spellbinding as the final track, an enchantment surreal not because of its lyricism but because of how those lyrics wind their way into the pit of your stomach. “so sad” is a song I wish I had next to me the many middle school nights I spent sitting alone in the shower, questioning the slivers of self that I had shared and the slivers of self that I had sheltered.
It is wild that I wrote a full paragraph about “so sad” without even mentioning the melody. The major intervals are swept into a moody soundscape that resembles midnight sky reflected across sea, shimmering then receding as the stars wait to be made again. McNally assembles the song and the fragments of self it concerns with stunning subtlety– “so sad” has an exquisite momentum that builds and builds and builds, ending not in a drop or redemptive lyric but in a prayer and an exhale. “In the morning it will be alright” is a wish disguised as a certainty, not a yearning for euphoria but for okay-ness. One of the stories I most wish I had seen growing up was of queer contentment. Not of epic love or heartbreaking suffering, but of gladness.
I hope that it will be a little more alright for you tomorrow than it was today.