Updated: Apr 30
Promise and The Monster, or the name behind the magic, Billie Lindhal, is an already well-established singer/songwriter originally from Sweden. With her latest release, “Chewing Gum,” Billie creates an entirely new world occupied by lush instrumentals, mystic vocals, and her signature romantic lyrics. Her previous work primarily used acoustics, strings, and elements that perfectly poised folk-inspired pop records. One word that undoubtedly defines Promise and The Monster’s music is fluid. From first establishing footing within the industry with ‘Transparent Knives’ in 2007 (which has a badge of honor from Pitchfork with a solid 7.7 rating), Billie’s art has evolved as she has. She creates work seemingly inspired by indie, folk, and rock music, imbuing her work with originality. “Chewing Gum” is no different, breathing fresh, magical air into Promise and The Monster’s discography.
“Chewing Gum” has six tracks in total, each hovering around three to four minutes, except for track three, “Vykort från förr.” As I can’t speak Swedish, I translated the title to the best of my ability. Translating to ‘postcards from the past’, it’s a title as equally as poetic as the project itself. “Chewing Gum” presents itself as a dark pop record, which I agree with, but also think it’s partially limiting. This EP provided an experience. Billie’s vocals are beautifully light yet build haunting imagery and emotion. The first track, “Beating Heart” opens the EP gracefully using warm, shimmery synths and electronics to create a smooth, catchy pop tune that feels as if it could coincide with a humid, summer night’s breeze as the day comes to an end. “Diamonds on Concrete” is the second track, still using the central synthpop aspects. This song is slower, yet harrowingly melodic, entrancing the listener and making you feel immediately hypnotized. The lyrics are always up for interpretation within Billie’s work.
Although for this song, I hear the tragic story of a love that’s destined to end badly, even if it’s doomed from the beginning, the love and yearning remain. There’s even a sweet homage to Elvis with the lyrics, ‘take my hand, take my whole life too,’ providing a sense of vulnerability and familiarity. The third track, “Vykort från förr” as previously stated is entirely instrumental. What it lacks in lyrics is made up for in the ethereal soundscape built throughout the entire EP. It incorporates harp-like sounds into the blended atmosphere of synth waves and pushes out something dreamy and cinematic. It is an integral part of the listening experience of “Chewing Gum”, helping to move forward the stories this EP shares. The fourth track, “One Summer,” has an exquisite build and fills up space with orchestral beauty and swelling strings, which helps to build an emotion that emulates that feeling of tears filling your eyes. Strong, powerful, and emotional. Those are the three words that encapsulate this track fully. It even has an intricate use of strings that resembles the anthems given to Daenerys Targaryen. Lyrically, this song uses religious verbiage such as “And I had to lose you by the cross…” and “See them coming, wash themselves in holy water.” The use of such prose fits perfectly into the subtly dark and macabre aesthetic Billie builds so effortlessly. The title track, “Chewing Gum” might be my personal favorite. Following suit with the rest of the EP's sounds, it includes wavering layers of strings with cymbal hits. “Chewing Gum” is lyrically heavy, penning a tale of falling into bad habits, making mistakes, losing yourself, and ultimately becoming someone you may not even recognize. In the sixth and final track, “Closed My Eyes”, the vocals come through and take precedence, featuring fewer synth and electronic elements than its predecessors. As the vocals loom over the track, the song steadily introduces more instruments, guitars, basses, and shimmery, shaking sounds all underneath the call of a siren which gently sweeps you to the end of the EP. The song endearingly relates to what the heart yearns for, “waiting for someone.. and I felt love” and the usage of names from icons such as Marilyn, Tina, or names that could be entirely ambiguous and relate to people you may know. It’s the freedom of interpretation that makes art even more viable and touching.
Overall, “Chewing Gum” creates an aura that is magical. Promise and The Monster succeeded in building a world of their own with music that balances light and heavy to create a dark pop paradise. The music almost feels destined to be paired with a coming of age movie, or even an episode of Euphoria. There’s real emotion, real vision, and a very real potential future with this EP and avenue that Promise and The Monster have decided to take. If you’re a fan of artists such as Lykke Li or Portishead, you’ll find this body of work enjoyable. Even if you enjoy aspects from works like Lorde’s Melodrama or the popular catalog of The 1975 and their use of synth, you can also enjoy the little slice of heaven and hell Promise and The Monster has created with “Chewing Gum.” There’s something for everyone and there is definitely more to explore following this project. I look forward to seeing what else Promise and The Monster has in store for the future.