By: Hope Ankney
The tension in the room was so thick one could almost cut it with a knife. Kiley Lotz’s sophomore release, Magic Gone, under the pseudonym ‘Petal,’ embodies this phrase almost perfectly. Her voice, once of sharp charisma and raw energy, is heavy-handed in creating the tension heard. The spirit in her vocals overlaid simplistic melodies is able to produce an emotion so rich that it almost takes on its own physical presence. The atmosphere is the record itself- what she brings to the table here through her second album, though, is the blade of a mentally stormy breakup.
Hailing from central Pennsylvania, Kiley Lotz and her well-built effort on Magic Gone is one that doesn’t seem to come from the dead-end city of Scranton that is notorious for The Office that constantly painted the town in a very dull light. Instead, Lotz pierces through the scene like she’s a seasoned veteran, offering an album that belongs in a metropolis of bright lights and overwhelming talent.
Continuing on from her debut, Lotz encapsulates hazy, indie-rock that contrasts from more rambunctious pop-punk to sticky-sweet and sometimes melancholic ballads. Magic Gone is a battle between the heart and the mind, even nagging insecurities, and she lets that be known almost immediately with the blazing opener “Better Than You.” A track that pings and pongs around the listener’s mind with it’s upbeat and angsty musicality. Lyrically, it directly confronts her self-doubt when it comes to being a performer with lyrics like “They say, “Hey, man you were great” but they don’t even have the slightest affection. That you’re really not doing okay, and maybe tonight you could barely even play.” It proves to be a highly affective song that addresses something many performers shy away from admitting- the exhaustion and facade that is put on every night to appease a crowd.
Even though Lotz isn’t noted for her lyricism, the ten songs produced here give her just enough flare to shift that opinion with emotional confessions of heartache and treatment. Regardless, the way she crafts the sounds around her words is just as significant as any lyric would be by itself. It’s something that sets her apart from the crowd, finding connection to her audience just through her instrumentals and vocal inflections. She is a raconteur in her own right. Her unfiltered voice, battered hooks, growling guitars, and the way her record shifts moods allows the listener to not focus so much on lyrical content but more on the foundation that makes a song, a song.
But, as a writer on her second effort, Lotz is able to amplify her skills of connectivity by spinning even deeper lyricism that chronicles the struggles of healing wounds of past love. The first half of Magic Gone is self-deprecating in nature but with down-trotted lyrics masked by mostly fast-paced beats and sunny euphony. It’s a beautiful thing when the words “You could barely drive when I said, “I don’t fucking care anymore.” I don’t see the point in lying for what i’m only tearing apart” off tracks like “Comfort” are given a friendlier vibe through how they’re delivered, demonstrating that gloomy lyrics can feel mild with a lighthearted instrumental.
The latter half of the record slopes into darker territory, feeling like one is prying open Lotz’s chest. The songs lean into ballads even though the lyricism slowly develops into understanding and slight acceptance of the end of a relationship. If one is looking for a comforting arc, they won’t find it here. Even though Magic Gone upturns itself from the rawness of it’s first act, it doesn’t end on a happy note either. It fades out with “Stardust,” a somewhat settlement for where Lotz stands after picking up the pieces of her life. It’s wistful but content. The vocals don’t feel as if they’re begging anymore, they’re under a state of realization and a certain detachment that satisfies the otherwise gorgeously tragic story told before the track.
Throughout Magic Gone, Kiley Lotz lies herself flat, bare and breathless as the record pulls back the awning on her sheltered emotions. With the rain drenching her, she’s able to find similarity in artists like The Watson Sisters or Phases, or even Jenny Lewis’ indie-rock trio Nice as Fuck. It leaves a lasting impression, each song, if one didn’t know better, having been crafted directly for them. There’s floods of sadness that encompass the sophomore record, but it’s the yin and yang that brings Magic Gone to life- brings a warmer feel to the melancholic release. It’s an album offering outreached arms for anyone who has ever felt the exact way Lotz did when writing down her pain. It’s a personal outcry that does its best to effortlessly connect to those that need to hear someone else’s outcry to heal.