Photo: Audrey Melton

Raia Was examines life’s quieter moments on gauzy alt-pop wonder “What It Feels Like” [BPM Premiere]

It’s been a few years since songwriter-producer Raia Was released her debut album, Angel I’m Frightened, back in 2021 – with its single, “You Are”, being featured in an episode of HBO’s Euphoria and garnering some much-deserved attention for her unique vision of R&B-indebted alt-pop. From her earliest years holding a weekly residency at a piano bar on Avenue B in New York to entrenching herself in that city’s indie music community, she’s always pushed against what she felt were unnecessarily rigid genre boundaries and searched for ways to address themes of identity and essential emotional catharsis.

On her new single, “What It Feels Like”, she handles the production duties herself and creates a sound built upon restless rhythmic nuance and purposeful self-reflection. The track uses an embedded low-level thrumming to accentuate the clattering percussion and Was’ hypnotic vocals, drawing you into a world of everyday ache and release, of echoes of past relationships and the consequences of affection. She details the small but gravitational moments that surround our greater choices in life. There’s a compelling fluidity to the music, as if it held no definite shape and altered its contours to suit whatever mood it happened to possess. It recalls the ethereal constructs of Kate Bush and the theatrical pop flourishes of Weyes Blood but isn’t defined by any of its influences nor by the way in which it adapts other complex musical antecedents.

I wrote ‘What It Feels Like’ about the experience of saying exactly what I mean,” she explains, “the moment of free-fall where I’m positive the world will end. I’m positive abandonment lurks just around the corner, and then… nothing. The world is just as I left it. I’m constantly seeking to give sound to what I think of as the ‘gray matter’ of life, the feelings and sensations that fill our days beyond the milestones and heartbreaks that define so much of our lived experience in the world.

“What It Feels Like” is one of the first releases for Switch Hit Records, which was co-founded and is operated by Lora-Faye Åshuvud (of Arthur Moon), Cale Hawkins, and Raia Was. This musician-run collective ensures that 100% of all profits go directly to the artists. The imprint has already shared singles from Arthur Moon and Cale Hawkins and has plans to release various full-length albums later this spring and on through the rest of 2023.

Concerning the creation of the accompanying video for “What It Feels Like”, Was says: “Working with Fazed [Films] to make the visual for this song, I kept coming back to the phrase ‘the party’s over’ which became the cue for my movements, for the arc of scenes transitioning from this sort of terrifying house, this ominous place, out into the light of day. Now as I’m remembering it, I think what I really meant is ‘the pity party’s over,’ we’re moving on.” The clip was produced and directed by Fazed Films with director of photography Lucy Blumenfield, editor Camila Grimaldi, and Allison Pasquesi, who designed the wearable art featured in the video.

Watch the video below or stream the song here.

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