With Dysphoria City Limits, Matty Grace demonstrates the bravery and strength it requires to continue seeing the forest for the trees even while being lost in the darkest corner of the woods.
There is nothing more punk than being vulnerable and honest in one’s art. At the moment, no one is more punk than Matty Grace (Cluttered, Century Egg). In early October 2021, Halifax-based Grace dropped Dysphoria City Limits, an EP of four songs she describes as “honest reflections of my headspace of the past few months.” The EP chronicles a recent downturn in her mental health and finds Grace focusing her energies inward. Using only her voice and a guitar (with additional vocals from Kay Slauenwhite on the title track), Grace searches for — and by the end of Dysphoria City Limits finds — a way to break through her despondency. The way out of her engulfing darkness isn’t pretty and doesn’t come wrapped in a happy ending, but it is genuine, emotional, and arrestingly raw.
Dysphoria City Limits’ opening title track is a cobweb-clearing blast of acoustic-punk in the tradition of Violent Femmes that candidly describes how Grace is suffering through her dysphoria. Ragged guitar chords strike as hard as her honest lyrics: “Misaligned from the body I was born into / fighting for an upside / fighting to re-form.” She sings the last two lines repeatedly until the end when Grace changes the last line to “fighting to conform.” As she nears the final line, each successive pass over these words grows more passionate, powerful, and urgent. It is a heartbreaking moment in a heart-racing song that channels all Grace’s energy and exhaustion from being caught in a cycle of inconsolable rumination.
A fiery riff buoys “I Live My Life With Enormous Tension,” but as the song’s title suggests, an undercurrent of anxiety and apprehension is constantly threatening to pull her under. “I’m alive but barely moving,” she claims, “Nicotine and THC just keeping me awake.” As the tension begins to break on “Repeating Numbers,” so does Grace’s guitar playing. It feels as if she’s somewhat relaxing into the melody as she sings about “finding the moments I can bear to live in.” Though she’s still “twiddling [her] thumbs [waiting] for motivation to come along” in the finale “A Succession of Yellow Lights,” Grace leaves listeners knowing that though she may be down, she’s not out of fight yet. When dysphoria and mental health pressures push Grace to the limits of her ability to cope, she finds another gear and motors through her darkest of moments.
Fueled by her vociferous howl and passionate playing, Matty Grace’s Dysphoria City Limits packs a powerful punch into its brief nine minutes. What’s most arresting about Grace is her mindfulness. She approaches these songs as she does her emotional state: with honesty and without judgement. That she has the wherewithal to make articulate art out of her deepest struggles is not only a testament to her creativity but her resilience as well. Though she feels misaligned with her body, Grace is very much in tune with herself. Dysphoria City Limits demonstrates the bravery and strength it requires to continue seeing the forest for the trees even while being lost in the darkest corner of the woods.
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