Marian Hill heal from trauma with ‘was it not’.

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Marian Hill

The cover of Marian Hill’s third extended play, ‘was it not’.

Mason Montano, Music Editor

American electronic duo Marian Hill, consisting of lead vocalist Samantha Gongol and producer Jeremy Lloyd, has gained a strong reputation on the indie pop scene ever since they formed the band in early 2013.

Their debut single, “Whiskey”, was released in May 2013; their debut EP, Play, arrived in March 2014; and the pair became known for their unique, innovative sound that they described as “classic bass sway” due to it being a modern take on a vintage style through a combination of dark pop and electro R&B with elements of jazz and blues.

They gained slight commercial success in February 2015 for their second EP, Sway, before achieving mainstream recognition with their single “Down”, which dropped in March 2016 and peaked at #21 on the Billboard Hot 100, prior to the arrival of their debut album, ACT ONE, in June 2016 followed by their sophomore record, Unusual, in May 2018.

Since then, Marian Hill has found further success by remixing other artists’ songs, most notably American singer-songwriter and dark pop sensation Billie Eilish’s “Bellyache”, until recently, when they returned to releasing original music with their third EP, was it not, in mid-March.

The EP is a continuation of the duo’s signature dark, electro R&B sound with crisp, minimalist production and heavy bass paired with a smooth, eerie vocal delivery from Gongol and somewhat odd lyricism.

Lyrically, was it not is a self-reflective record about experiencing trauma in one’s love life and learning to heal from it on top of searching for new love. 

This concept is perfectly introduced by the third single and title track — an ominous, bass-heavy number about questioning one’s reality and struggling to recall the details from the past in a state of confusion that’s strongly hinted to be the effects of mental abuse, specifically gaslighting, which is visualized by the song’s trippy music video that represents being lost in one’s mind and stuck repeating past events.

The second single, “like u do”, speaks more directly about a toxic relationship and is followed by the non-single, “eat u alive”, in which Gongol takes the power back, getting the upper-hand on her abuser and establishing her dominance over them, as she will no longer let herself be manipulated. 

The latter also sports a sick saxophone solo from American saxophonist Steve Davit, a frequent collaborator of Marian Hill’s who appears on a number of their previous songs, that adds an extra layer of depth and grit to the track’s already nasty production.

The narrative comes to a close on “no one knows” — a hauntingly beautiful, trap-infused ballad about a budding romance that acts as the ray of light at the end of a dark tunnel and sees Gongol, having healed from the trauma of her previous relationship, singing about a newfound love, ending the EP with a sense of hope that was absent on “was it not”.

Marian Hill is an extremely underrated act on the indie pop scene with a one-of-a-kind sound and a polished edge that’s unmatched among their contemporaries, and was it not is available now across all online and streaming platforms.

Stream was it not on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/2ItKtHGJDP9TYI1oLrBzJ0?si=oDfSm9HhS9aFTu5s1bUEhg 

Watch the music video for “was it not”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haSRIKarqTA 

The members of Marian Hill, Jeremy Lloyd (left) and Samantha Gongol (right), in the music video for ‘was it not’.