Album of the Week | Mega Bog: End of Everything

Erin Birgy's Mexican Summer debut finds the experimental singer/songwriter pivoting to rich synth-pop with vulnerability and grace

Music Reviews Mega Bog
Album of the Week | Mega Bog: End of Everything

Erin Birgy, the force behind Mega Bog, is not one to shy from experimentation. Over her past six albums under the project, Birgy’s arsenal of avant-pop tools grows every time, and with each aesthetic pivot, the Mega Bog universe grows more colorful. On End of Everything, her first release with Mexican Summer, Birgy sought an icy, glistening synthpop palette, tapping collaborators like co-producer and Big Thief drummer James Krivchenia and multi-instrumentalist Aaron Otheim to help realize that vision. Overtop the swirling synths, Birgy’s voice dances with Broadway bravado as she reckons with personal traumas and an accelerating climate crisis. From her vantage point in Los Angeles, beneath the constant smog and within sight of burgeoning forest fires that grow more deadly by the year, she sounds like a klaxon that cannot go ignored.

End of Everything begins with the immediately catchy “Cactus People,” a propulsive track that keeps Birgy in the lower regions of her range, as a panoply of synthesizers dart around with a freneticism that corresponds with her message: Feel your feelings; the more you do to avoid them, the more punishing they’ll be when they catch you. The following track “The Clown” begins with crescendoing synth lines that wind up in a way that would’ve made this an ideal album opener. “The Clown” has an arresting, confrontational bend, demanding Birgy’s counterpart reckon with his assumption that she would always be available and flatly whimsical: “Oh how do you see me now? / Am I still the clown / you found so charming?” “Love Is” has a similarly revelatory energy, with Birgy declaring what love isn’t and demanding to be shown what love really is. It’s an energy surge augmented by Will Westerman, whose grace matches Birgy’s, rendering the track cinematic. Marta Tiesenga’s saxophone performance is a highlight, just as it is on “Don’t Doom Me, Now” and “Anthropocene.”

“Anthropocene” is the most clearly ecological song on End of Everything, and, beyond that, the vocal-forward production is reminiscent of a fearful show tune. “I thought the plants would always / Take care of me, like that,” Birgy laments, fearing a world where it’s too late to keep plant life from suffocating in the toxic, overheated atmosphere. Her existential crises about the anthropocene resemble her own sense of drowning under the pressures of personal trauma, mass viral death and an addiction she eventually eschewed altogether. Her thrilling rhythms heighten the conflicts she has with her planet, her community and herself throughout.

Historically, Mega Bog’s music has been oblique, rarely allowing direct interpretation or genre strictures. But, when Erin Birgy embraced sobriety, she wanted End of Everything to represent her transition to clarity. Her stark vocals and plain-yet-poignant lyrics achieve that message over a catchy, kinetic, vintage pop foundation. While tracks like “The Clown” might inspire vigorous dancing, more scintillating tracks like “Complete Book of Roses” and “End of Everything” inspire introspection. “Complete Book of Roses” is less pop-oriented, but Birgy’s intense vocals against electric guitar and shuffling bongos make you feel as if they’re in a rock opera performed in her LA backyard.

“All and Everything” has a similar doomy mood, with tensions mounting from the first moment. Over four anxious minutes, Birgy weighs the possibilities: Submit to chaos and inevitable destruction, or commit to building an alternative future? How does anyone make room for fear of swelling catastrophes, speculation and pursuing a conscious, sustainable path forward? The frenzying process of trying to embody all of it is enough for Birgy to burst—and towards the end of the track, she does. This rigidity that she witnesses—that we all witness—on a daily basis is far too much to grasp. Give enough space to examining the contradictions and you, too, will want to scream alongside Birgy.

End of Everything is a multimedia endeavor, featuring Birgy’s first collection of published poetry. On The Practice of Hell Ending, she dives even deeper into the conflicts she introduces, using verse to travel through her evolving emotional landscape. But to capture the heart of the album is to consider all of its aesthetics across the board. On the accompanying music videos, Birgy brought her directorial eye to Greece and around Los Angeles—capturing ruins in “End of Everything” and Grecian hustle and bustle on “Cactus People.” She even sports topical, gothic makeup on “The Clown,” leaving no experience or metaphor unturned across her videos and adding a colorful, visceral experience to End of Everything.

Birgy’s previous two Mega Bog albums, Life, and Another and Dolphine, are stellar for their unpredictable genre references and eerie delivery; the albums are cloaked in an enticing fog and resist easy classification. End of Everything is also full of surprises, but its tools are more concentrated—centered on chilling production and curious, sometimes-confessional lyrics that sit prominently atop bold synthpop. Birgy’s transition into this musical realm is enthralling and promises more excitement from the dedicated experimentalist. As painstakingly beautiful as her more inscrutable records have been, to witness Mega Bog in crystalline electronica is to witness an artist reclaim and represent her consciousness with unsettling clarity. It is a privilege to behold.

Read our recent interview with Mega Bog here and watch their Paste Session from 2017 below.

Devon Chodzin is a critic and urban planner with bylines at Slumber Mag, Merry-Go-Round and Post-Trash. He is currently a student in Philadelphia. He lives on Twitter @bigugly.

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