Oatmeal Queen’s debut EP, Martian, is a collection of heartfelt ballads that confront the feeling of alienation in a time when we are more technologically connected, yet more socially isolated than ever before.
I was taken in immediately with the title track “Martian,” which fitting to its name, wrestles with the frustration in relating to others. The track introduces the listener to celestial synths that underlay Paloma Pendharker’s breathy, crystal clear vocals. I immediately felt a wave wash over me and thought “this is the sound that we need this year.” After over a year of rotating lockdowns and social distancing, when Penharker sings “Separate from other folks / […] / When I need loving the most,” I felt a deep connection. Pendarker’s fluid vocals balance out the more mechanical layering of synths, coming together like a meeting of the technological with the human warmth of her colourful vocal harmonies.
The album takes a tonal shift with “Cold,” the third track, and progresses towards a more playful mood contrary to its title. The layering of vocal harmonies are tied in between moments of rest in the phrasing that give more power to her vocal strength. When the bassline cuts, her voice emerges from those restful moments in a cool, ethereal tone that sounds refreshing.
The second to last of the EP is my personal favourite: “Giving In.” Pendharkar sings about how “Only one year ago / We were so intertwined,” speaking to both personal loneliness, and global realities. I really felt the emotion of Pendharker’s voice as it swells into the chorus and reveals a hopefulness that comes after periods of introspection as she sings, “Been spending time with myself, defining myself, I’m fine with myself.” The track felt like the perfect release into the EP’s closer, “Martian in the Light.” The final track strips away feelings of shame that often accompany being alone, and instead celebrates solitude. With a beat that makes you want to get up and dance, “Martian in the Light” encourages us to have faith in carving out our own path and to bear our differences in the light. —Ashley Wood