There is something enduring about great love songs, and Briana Marela's Call It Love wraps its wide arms around the subject, invoking all its complexity. From the getgo, Call it Love opens with a reflection on a new love. An unfurling, ambient hum builds slowly, articulating that unmistakable head-in-the-clouds feeling that accompanies early love, before giving way to an uptempo melody and a clattering, joyful chorus. Layers and textures evoke its subtler feelings, while the lyrics speak frankly, holding nothing back. Deepening her songwriting and expanding her palette, Briana Marela has made her proverbial giant leap, to explore the sounds of love in beautiful, striking new ways.
Before writing the songs that would become Call It Love, Briana Marela was typically guided first and foremost by her instincts as a producer and engineer. Marela studied audio production in Olympia at The Evergreen State College, and her previous albums, Speak From Your Heart and All Around Us, capture that early spirit of exploration. Marela's original vision for this album was to dig into the two poles of her songwriting styles: her ambient, ethereal side and her brighter, beat-driven pop leanings. She enlisted the production help of Juan Pieczanski and Ryan Heyner of the band Small Black. Instead of recording everything from scratch in the studio, Marela brought recorded stems for every song that then evolved and developed further in the studio. Pieczanski and Heyner brought a strong percussive instinct, weaving pop and polish into even the most spaced-out cinematic arrangements, and upon hearing their most recent self-produced album, Marela's decision to work with them was almost instantaneous.
"Originally, I was trying to make this album have cohesive pairs of songs," Marela says, "sister songs, where all the ambient songs would have a poppier match, and vice versa." What followed instead was a fusion of the two styles, with Marela's subtler, sweeter side crashing into her bolder, brighter one. "Give Me Your Love" explores what Marela calls "love's immature, silly and selfish side. That eagerness, the feeling of lust and wanting more." It begins almost as an electronic ballad, sweet and inviting, before crashing into a dance-floor rhythm and a winking, flirtatious breakdown. "Feel What I Feel" was first written about Marela's first big breakup when she was barely twenty, but it bears a new sophistication in this recorded version; the lyrics dare the subject to jump back in, even as the music reminds them Marela doesn't need their love to be happy. And then there's the deep, dramatic centerpiece of Call It Love, "Quit". Originally penned about a breakup with a longtime partner, and written with the idea that she could give the song away to another artist, "Quit" is powerful and revealing in Marela's hands; the percussion crashes into her vocals, and the low-end acts like an undertow, wrestling and pulling at its beat.
If "Be In Love" is the sound of falling in love, "Farthest Shore" is the sound of looking inward, of reckoning with oneself. Inspired by the book 'The Farthest Shore' by Ursula K LeGuin, it is one of only two songs not strictly about love, instead exploring what makes our own lives worth living. "I have always had an intense fear of death," Briana explains, "and this book inspired me to remember the magic in pursuing creativity, and that eternal life would actually be very dull." It is an intricate, cavernous song, setting a deceptively pretty melody over ominous, hazy drones and skittering percussion. And here, again, the contradictory becomes complementary.