Today, Saya Gray has released her debut EP 19 MASTERS via Dirty Hit (Wolf Alice, The 1975, Rina Sawayama, beabadoobee). Her steady stream of releases have gained her recognition from the likes of Pitchfork, NPR, The New York Times, Uproxx, Consequence, Notion, Pigeons and Planes, and The Guardian with her collage-style sound, vivid storytelling, and unconventional song writing captivating listeners worldwide. With this release comes a visualiser for ‘WISH U PICKED ME…’, another single that is featured on 19 MASTERS that further cements the Canadian-Japanese singer-songwriter’s as an artist to watch.
19 MASTERS is a reflection of Saya Gray’s experiences of isolation and expectations as a mixed race woman of Japanese and Canadian descent growing up in a predominantly white environment. Her solitary nature echoes through the record via diaristic voice notes from her time touring with other artists, with delicate vocals that drift and shapeshift. Indeed, 19 MASTERS is produced, written, and performed entirely by Saya, with the exception of her mother opening the project in Japanese, some guitar lines from her brother, and some trumpet from her dad. It’s soft and deeply introspective, with songs primarily about her relationship with herself, delving into her mind, avoidant patterns, and the practice of self-celebration.
The EP is a dazzling listening experience. There are significant key changes, unexpected tempo shifts, guitars and vocals warped into new sounds and shapes, and even tilts in frequency – at various points, Saya plays singing bowls, harp, and koto, bringing celestial sounds that are healing to the body, a restorative balm to all the fractured and fraught identities. The project is acoustic and lo-fi, but not; it nods to hip-hop but isn’t remotely in that space; it weaves in elements of alt-R&B, but it’s not that either. Like the songs’ own subjects, it is a stunning world entirely of Saya Gray’s making, a peerless, genre-less sound that immediately establishes her as one of the most exciting new artists of 2022.
For Saya, the number 19 represents the beginning and ending of a cycle, from 1 to 9 and so 19 Masters takes us on Saya Gray’s journey so far, fragmented and dreamlike, unafraid to be uncomfortable and pick apart the expectations, quietly sticking to her own path. It is a record that is all the more beguiling and immersive for it.
19 MASTERS tracklisting
2. FOUND A FLOORBOARD UNDER THE SOIL!
3. CERVICAL CEDRIC
4. SAVING GRACE
5. WISH U PICKED ME…
6. EMPATHY 4 BETHANY
7. GREEN APPLE (EVERY NIGHT I RIDE NIGHT MARES)
8. 2019 WAS AN EMPTY CARB
10. TOOO LOUD!
12. N’SUFFICIENT FUNDS (THIS SONG SOUNDS LIKE MY WINTER)
13. SADNESS RESIDUE (ERASER ROOM)
14. S.H.T (silent hot tears/send hot tempura)
15. PAP TEST
16. LITTLE PALM
17. SEEDLESS FRUIT (S OF MY LABOUR)
18. LEECHES ON MY THESIS!
19. IF THERE’S NO SEAT IN THE SKY (WILL YOU FORGIVE ME???)
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