Milan Ring empowers listeners to embrace what the future holds on 'I'm Feeling Hopeful'
Eora-based singer-songwriter and producer Milan Ring released her outstanding debut album, ‘I’m Feeling Hopeful’, to the world last Friday. Merging multiple sounds with a variety of influences, the album is intrinsically tied into Milan’s cultural background, with the cover art featuring outstretched Mudrās – hand gestures that have been used for centuries in art, meditation, dance and worship – surrounding her. Furthermore, ‘I’m Feeling Hopeful’ is the culmination of years of extraordinary work from Milan Ring, who has established herself as an incredible force in the hip-hop, R&B and new wave scene.
Written, recorded, produced and mixed by Milan Ring, the production on this record is truly fearless. Throughout this project Milan effortlessly breathes life throughout every song through her sheer willingness to unsheathe all self-imposed limitations and to craft the boundary-pushing, cosmically in-tune music she wishes to make. Every feature is carefully curated to not just compliment each track, but to shine alongside Milan. It is outstanding to experience how expertly-crafted each track is, a facet which undoubtedly echoes the time, care and undivided passion that Milan poured into this revealing project.
‘Hide With You’
A calming introduction, featuring live instrumentals (namely tender keys and easygoing drums) and Milan’s harmonisations, immediately acts to confide in the listener the sheer extent of raw honesty that is set to be unveiled over this album’s runtime. Milan’s opening verse on ‘Hide With You’ explores the debilitating vices she sees affecting a significant other, and by utilising her off-kilter flow she demonstrates her fluctuating emotions towards this person. The track explores her relationship with this person, and the intoxicating allure of their escapist ideals which drive this person’s difficulty in disconnecting from a life of self-sabotage that has ultimately been their own undoing. Milan recreates the emotions she underwent as she separated from this significant other, stating: “You turned blue, I couldn’t move, I said goodbye, the brightest eyes I’ve ever seen, that moment free, euphoria”. Whilst it was a deep love for this person that left Milan willing join them in their efforts to hide away from the world, it was the acceptance of their decisions that allowed her to move on. As the track builds, the energy of the bass crescendos and explodes from silence, with Milan’s vocal stretching captivating the listener incredibly well.
‘Take Me Away’
The listener instantly becomes swept up in the amalgamation of gorgeous sounds coming together in this interlude track. Milan’s use of vocal layering, sensual reverberating guitar notes and thumping drums points to an idyllic moment in time which she’d rather be in. As the track hits its second half, Milan utilises distorted vocals and sounds that appear to be a reversal of what we heard in the first half of the song; perhaps speaking to the notion of winding down from one’s high. A closing statement spoken by a morning newsreader appears to awaken Milan and bring her back to reality in preparation for the cloudy day ahead.
‘BS’ ft Che Lingo
Every element in this track balances together perfectly. The way Milan’s echoey vocals lead into such an unapologetic flow emphatically establishes the contagious mood of ‘BS’, a track which is emblematic of those days where our perpetual trials and tribulations add up to be too much. The result of such distinctly familiar overwhelming discontent, is an exciting collaborative effort with South West London rapper Che Lingo, that leaves me reciting the lyrics and emulating the flow switch-ups from both artists each and every time I hear it. Both artists use this track to firmly remind anyone who dares bring their bullshit and negativity intentions into their lives of the fact that they’ll be easily caught out for what they are. The overall attitude, mood and aesthetic of ‘BS’ is wholly relatable, and whether it's Che Lingo or Western Sydney rapper Jaecy (via Triple J’s Like A Version) jumping on the verse, I’m all for it.
‘I Can Fix You’
‘I Can Fix You’ takes its time to build the mood, which is one of self-confrontation where Milan speaks on deep realisations about a past relationship. Milan explores her own awakening to previously-held ideas regarding this particular relationship, specifically coming to terms with the realisation of her own efforts to control this person that were initially guised as wanting the best for them, which is symbolically encapsulated through the repetition of: “Give me, give me the controller, so I can control ya”. The production on this song is especially effective in how it personifies Milan’s building frustrations with this person through the crushing guitar notes and brooding bass.
‘Sydney Hue’ ft BLESSED
An explosion of euphoric, vivid energy pervades ‘Sydney Hue’, an element which is elevated by the combination of Milan Ring and BLESSED, two artists who have both always displayed such a natural affinity for guitar play and spellbinding production. As a result, the listener is left in awe of this powerful collaboration. Milan displays an abundance of reflection and transparency on this song, acknowledging locations in Sydney she previously avoided that remind her of this past relationship – “I drive by just to see your face up by that Sydney hue” – and subsequently leave her drawn back to this person, despite her own awareness of the pain they left her with. BLESSED’s delivery on his verse is a mix of refrained and emotionally-charged, speaking to his own lingering heartache from a past relationship. Despite it being their home city, the relationships Milan and BLESSED are reeling from leave them unable to view their home in the same way again. The chorus on this is undoubtedly one of my favourites to come out of the scene this year, and the way the track culminates with that divine guitar work means the listener is offered a chance to overcome and confront the internal frustrations that have been created by their own past relationships.
‘Pick Me Up’ ft Jean Deaux
This dance-inducing and infectious electropop-esque track speaks to the feelings one undergoes on a night out where they hope that that special someone finally notices them. Milan mixes playfulness with a forthright energy on ‘Pick Me Up’, embracing desire and displaying an undoubted confidence in going out and pursuing what she wants. The inclusion of Chicago-based artist Jean Deaux on this track amps up the witty wordplay, with the multifaceted vocalist and rapper packing plenty of dynamic bars that build on Milan’s direct intentions expressed throughout this song. The track plays on our own need for love in a nightclub setting whilst creating a vibey atmosphere to simply allow the listener let go and enjoy oneself.
Milan’s delightful harmonisations and humming brilliantly sets up ‘Fluttering’, a lively and self-aware rap-centric track that gives her a chance to talk through her younger years. From her reflections on her early experiences with wanting love and the frustration that came from not receiving enough of such love, to finding vices to overcome these same challenges, Milan delivers each bar with natural sophistication and storytelling flair. The track’s title is almost eponymously manifested in the lackadaisical flow of this track, as Milan flutters in-and-out of each verse and chorus with a nonchalance that speaks to her laidback perspective on her youth.
‘Dreaming’ is a track which Milan uses as a vessel to explore her previous self-imposed limitations that were accentuated by anxiety and exterior judgement, as well as her efforts to overcome these obstacles and vices to achieve a subsequent freedom of self. Milan references feeling unheard, blamed and relating to the hate she’s received as a result of her own struggles with self-love. Although, as Milan conveys throughout the track, she has remained a dreamer despite the challenges that life has continually thrown at her. Through this track, Milan is reminding the listener to remain resolute in the face of internal doubt and outside hate, and to continue dreaming of forging something greater for oneself.
‘…’ gives Milan the space to allow the instrumentation and production to evoke her feelings. It provokes the listener with Milan’s emotionally-driven use of the electric guitar and synth, never seizing or retreating in what it wishes to convey. This track is operating in its own sonic echelon, drawing on an eclectic variety of sounds to invoke what is perhaps a stream of consciousness derived from Milan’s own subconscious.
‘Keep Me Safe’
Featuring a warm acoustic guitar and Milan’s comforting vocals, ‘Keep Me Safe’ is expressed from the perspective of someone wishing for a love that provides them with a safety and reprieve from the pain that is caused by the outside world. ‘Keep Me Safe’ is a testament to the enduring power of love, a feeling which operates – regardless of our own doubts, fears and anxieties – to embolden us with the strength to know we are protected. Whether or not we believe it to be provided divinely, through an energy outside of our own understanding or through those around us, we are in fact best-placed to take on each day when we know we are loved.
‘Let It Glide’ ft Barkaa
‘Let It Glide’ brings together Milan Ring and Malyangapa and Barkindji artist Barkaa for an utter powerhouse of a track. The chorus, which sees Milan use a digitised, electronically-distorted bass in the background, provides the perfect platform for her to express the overriding statement of this track, which is one against those who believe their opinion on matters outside of their domain to be of importance. The inclusion of Barkaa on ‘Let It Glide’ indisputably reaffirms the message of self-empowerment that is within this track. Barkaa lets all of her internal feelings and lived experiences flow on this track, bringing an authenticity to every one of her bars, such as when she states: “You don’t know the struggle, when your demons got you in a chokehold, and they don’t really love you, and they don’t want you to grow old”, the truthfulness of which makes her subsequent follow-up – “So, I grabbed that demon, put him in a grip, choked him out ‘til he went cold” – irrefutably prevailing. ‘Let It Glide’ makes it clear that Milan Ring and Barkaa refuse to give in to the demons of the past, present or future.
‘Hopeful’ is indicative of where Milan Ring has found herself at following years of working to come to terms with herself and the world around her. This track is undeniably joyful in not just its instrumentation, but in how it conveys Milan’s catharsis and ensuing feeling of optimism about the journey that lays ahead through the increasing distortion in the repetition of the eponymous album name. With this, Milan has broken free of her own self-doubt and has acknowledged her hope for the future.
This interlude combines elements of classic and contemporary R&B to make something that feels distinctly Milan Ring as her vocals glide across this interlude track in an intimate fashion. ‘Daily’ appears to follow on from a previous relationship Milan referred to on album opener ‘Hide With You’, where she continues to pray and send guiding energy to this loved one who has their own demons to face each day.
‘Hands Are Tied’
Every element of ‘I’m Feeling Hopeful’ is brought together within album closer ‘Hands Are Tied’, a song which captures the spirit of Milan coming to accept the nature of herself and the world around her. The track maintains Milan’s unique aptitude for syncopating her vocals to align with the mood of a song, except throughout ‘Hands Are Tied’ she demonstrates her adaptability across a variety of augmented and instrumental-based sounds. It is an equally beautiful and triumphant conclusion to an outstanding album.
‘I’m Feeling Hopeful’ sees multiple threads of stories and experiences coming together into one interconnected weave that represents the myriad of experiences and learnings that Milan has undergone. Throughout this album you will find a blend of Milan’s internal dialogue and observations of the world around her, and with each track clarity is given to the listener about how to ease their own struggles in the day-to-day. As listeners, we are left assured not just in our capacity to contribute and work to reshape the modern world, but inspired in our right to love ourselves fully and embrace all of the beautiful, confronting, confounding and confusing situations that come their way. And ultimately, despite all of the trauma and unrelenting challenges that have been thrown at her, Milan Ring is still feeling a sense of hope. And on this album, she hopes you are left feeling it too.
Words by Matthew Badrov
1st Photo by James Evans (@evoisevo)