Kieran Smyth and Mingjia Chen remind us that when wading through darkness, there is no better feeling than knowing you’re not alone.
As Jim pointed out in his recent review of Fortunato Durutti Marinetti’s Desire, during these trying times people have taken up a new pastime of connecting art that was made before the pandemic to the current crisis. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — I’m guilty of doing so. The collaborative EP Everything is Going to Be Okay from Toronto-based artists Kieran Smyth and Mingjia Chen lends itself easily to topical interpretations, and Smyth and Chen are okay with that. Although it was recorded in the fall, the duo write this about their release: “here is a collection of songs that we hope can bring comfort to you & to those made vulnerable during this strange time.”
Everything is Going to Be Okay is a quiet EP that plays with folk and jazz styles. It’s as comforting as your best friend offering you the exact reassuring words of its title. Bandcamp buyer Amateur says it best: “This feels like holding someone and gently rocking together.” Smyth and Chen’s incredible chemistry is apparent from the opening seconds of “Avocado Sock,” a song that is as charming as you think it is. Despite the distance between them, Smyth and Chen have such a deep connection that they finish each other’s sentences: “You’ve been gone,” sings Smyth, “far too long,” Chen concludes. Together they sing, “all I dream is you.” “Berlin” likewise finds the pair navigating the space in between, agreeing to meet each other at various places around the world when trouble strikes.
The tenderness of the EP — made from Smyth and Chen’s delicate vocal deliveries and the minimal, and equally soft, instrumentation — feels magnified by the sadness that fills each song. A longing to bridge the gap between two people is ever-present, and it seems enormous at times. On “Wraith” Smyth and Chen exchange verses that speak to a deep loneliness, and on “Rooted in Reason,” Chen shares a wordy exploration of loss. But despite all the distance and the sadness, Smyth and Chen are focused on celebrating the vital connection that two people can have. When wading through darkness, there is no better feeling than knowing you’re not alone. To close their EP, Smyth and Chen repeat these words to each other so they are tangled in one unbreakable knot:
I’m so lucky to have met you, in this exact combination of time & place as this exact version of you as this exact version of me.