Next Door Records • 2023

poolblood’s debut is a dynamic, open-ended study of relationships and life experiences that offers possible outcomes rather than resolutions.

Imagine someone standing in an empty terminal as the bus carrying their ex-lover pulls out of the station and leaves their life forever. Imagine a discarded grocery bag swirling down a deserted sidewalk, caught in a churning wind. Imagine a slightly soiled stuffed teddy bear abandoned on a thrift store shelf after silently enduring years of imaginary tea parties, climbing trees, and restless, sleepless nights absorbing coughing fits and runny noses. 

What would you feel if you were that person/plastic bag/teddy bear? Heartbroken and alone? Relief that the dysfunction was now over? Would you be wondering why, like clockwork, you are in a time of transition and uncertainty again? Though not specifically writing about any of the above situations, mole, the debut full-length album from poolblood (Toronto-based songwriter and performer Maryam Said), is a dynamic, open-ended study of relationships and life experiences that offers possible outcomes rather than resolutions.

Said’s bio notes that they spent their early life in a “religious household at arm’s length from popular music.” Yet, like a sponge, Said soaks poolblood’s sound in myriad influences and persuasions. mole is unconventional pop from an unconventional artist. Unpretentious to the point that the first thing Said says on mole is “Oops” (at the start of opener “<3”), poolblood’s laidback, sometimes lachrymose vibe is easy to underestimate. “<3” is just a slip of a song, but it’s an intrinsic moodsetter for the whole of mole. It abruptly tumbles into “wfy,” redolent in soft guitar strings and muted brass, where Said sets the scene: “I reek of the subway / I’m drenched in your warmth / I’ve never had a halo / longing to be loved.” The ambiguity of this particular relationship plays out in its lyrics: “I’ve waited around /your porch, looking for myself / I wish it was a monday, so I can start over.” Still, Said sings with such understated conviction that you’re sure whatever decision they’ve made about their future with this partner is final, regardless of their words.  

Like most of us, Said has spent the last few years relearning how to navigate external and internal relationships under atypical conditions. These connections also inform poolblood’s worldview. Whether focusing on a failing romantic connection or looking to break free from codependency, on mole, change and the passing of time is not something to fear, but to embrace and lean into. “I know I’m not the same / And I know I’m not my yesterdays,” Said sings on early single, “twinkie,” “The future is a distant light / Muggy and always shy.” Much of mole’s music is rich and thick and lingers in the air long after it’s over. Far from feeling oppressive and heavy, Said finds moments to let lightness and delicateness in, as on closer “my little room.” “I’ve been waiting over a quarter / of a century and now I’m living in / a memory / prone to pathetic fallacies,” they lilt before adding, “And if / it works out / and I end up in / tune somehow /  I’ll be thankful for this time / alone.” 

I love that mole offers no real conclusions. Like the suddenly single person in the bus terminal, the untethered plastic bag, and the abandoned teddy bear, the songs on mole find us at the point in their story where a door has closed, and the next is not fully open. That no clear answers are implied in their songs suggests that regardless of the outcome, Said’s story is full of endless possibilities, unwritten but not impossible.

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