I once heard in my early teens that the lessons that stick with you are the ones that hurt. Growing up is intensely emotional and the ways the internet has entangled itself in our growth as people has, emotionally speaking, enabled our worst habits when it comes to how we heal. Constant reminders of our broken pieces can be found in the mundane: screenshot arguments cemented for onlookers, blocked remains of once hopeful friendships, and a constant state of personal vulnerability, all too easily forgotten until we’re the target.
The natural truth is that things rarely happen how we want them to and in these reminders, we’re left with a secret need ringing in us that calls for things like belonging, closure, and peace: things that, for all of its capabilities, the internet rarely grants.
The title of electronic label FROMTHEHEART’s debut record, “things happen, it’s ok!” seems to offer an ease to all of this tension, speaking to the idea that healing and happiness can be found (at least partially) in the acceptance that there is beauty in the broken things, especially when exploring the relationship of self to others while growing up on the internet.
Running the length of a Boy Meets World episode, “things happen, it’s ok!” pulls an assortment of experimental producers and vocalists, curated by producer/singer-songwriter VALENTINE, together to produce a project that is both playful and contemplative.
Opening with ruffled static and mewling keys, the opening track ‘dust’ sets both of these moods in place before diverting into a few seconds of silence. As VALENTINE’s vocal hums are joined by her actual voice imploring simply, “do you feel strength in me?” the question hangs with an intimate innocence to it over the hyper-bare production, which almost sounds like something from Kanye West’s latter works (specifically The Life of Pablo or Ye).
No time is wasted before ‘BURNING TIRES’ works a music box melody around a Timbaland bounce, complete with stereo-rupturing bass that scoops chunks from the track. At only a minute long, Knapsack and VALENTINE do the micro-pop track justice with cooing vocals peeking in between sweet-as-summer-asphalt lyrics about past love.
‘5T4YTRU’ finds lyricist and producer Fraxiom (of Gupi and Frax fame) rapping in l33tsp33k amid beeping ambulance chords, sword sounds, and Easy Bake Oven dings. The track is syrupy and neurotic, referencing the anxieties of the struggle for self while in a relationship. This could be a romantic connection, but it seems more possible it’s on some level a callback to parasocial relationships, based on the first portion of the hook:
“so if i get on stage and forget all my words, could you like sing them back but don’t rewrite my verse – i’m trying to stay true”.
This is then followed by a series of mimicked “stay true”’s that warble and shimmy, lending weight again to the idea of someone grasping for identity amid the noise of their environment.
The energetic ‘MIDWESTEMO2’ marks a high point in the album, with a rebellious sway led by Yung Skrrt, Lunamatic, LoneMoon, and Underscores – the largest artist count per track on the project. Lunamatic’s indie-scene swagger next to LoneMoon’s anime-glam blitz make for two catchy memorable verses that counter each other in between Yung Skrrt’s pushing call to “get away…’til you learn to catch a break on your own,” it’s almost easy to miss the third verse via Underscores’ pitched down vocals, but the addition fits well inside the downtempo screwed outro that the song rides out.
Both Underscores and Knapsack return to accompany VALENTINE for the following cut, ‘stuck!’, a poignant track offering a switch up: some gel-layered RnB keys built to reward a moment’s chance for space to breathe. Fittingly, this track again mounts lyrics that reflects on self worth, purpose, and the consequences therein. “Is this what you wanted? I had my fill, don’t disturb the water, let me be still, could you tell me what it’s all for?”
On ‘DOGFIGHT’, rapper Emotegi brings the energy back with schoolyard clap chants and peak “stepdad’s living room mosh pit” sensibility. Like ‘BURNING TIRES’, it’s a shorter track with quite the bite to it, but in its brevity does a lot to heat things up after the prior song.
If there was one song in “things happen, it’s ok!” to tie to the cover art (designed by producer ache), ‘BiG KIDS’ would be it. With lyrics from jedwill1999 and RILEY THE MUSICIAN mourning the stresses of growing up and young adulthood (appropriately disposed with the casually hair-flip lyrics of “I don’t really care for it”), the track serves as a flute-riddled romp that sounds one part Nick Jr, one part melted crayon wax, and two parts bleeding Soundcloud trap. With all its flair, this track punches similarly in theme to its older sibling, ‘MIDWESTEMO2’, and feels like having a dream about being with your childhood friends before waking up and remembering you have to go to work. It is at once existential, whiny, and incredibly fun.
The final track ‘idontfeelitanymore’ brings Chuck Sutton and VALENTINE together in a colorful closer addressing the project’s themes of self doubt, now from the rearview. As Chuck opens with a confession that “I used to turn my head right around at the littlest things”, the upbeat tune inverts the expected drop with creative production choices, before clearing itself to recalling that the simpler times are not always the easier times.
“Remember when everything was simple? When all we wanted was more? All the times that we shared, Remember cryin’ on the floor?”
Across the project, tracks like ‘MIDWESTEMO2’, ‘5T4YTRU’, ‘stuck!’, and ‘BiG KIDS’ grapple with the pain of growing up and our desire to get through to the other side unscathed. But despite the impossibility for us to do this, ‘idontfeelitanymore’ is a reminder that even when we get hurt, we can recover from our lowest points and be exactly who we want to be.
Gracing the first spring of a tumultuously unstable new decade, FTH’s “things happen, it’s ok!” is a snug project capturing the struggles of growth and self-actualization in the internet age. Texturally sophisticated and devilishly fast-paced, FTH’s debut is a project well worth a spin for any who enjoy deconstructed trap, rap, and/or pop.