As the follow-up to the big debut, there is a lot on the line for any artist’s second album, but Mothica wasn’t afraid to jump the gun creatively with her concept record Nocturnal (releasing via her own imprint with Rise Records, Heavy Heart Records). While her last album Blue Hour explored the developmental period of becoming sober, Nocturnal dwells on the dark aftermath and search for a new meaning. With a whopping seventeen tracks including an introduction and three interludes, she took a risk with an unconventional album format – one that overall worked out in her favor.
The concept includes an antagonist called the Mothman, who we hear speak in a lo-fi, film noir-reminiscent voice several times throughout the album, including in each interlude. It adds to the haunting vibe of the record, personifying the intrusive thoughts Mothica has pushing her to be self-destructive. The character is presented as comforting with a friendly demeanor, expressing the deceptive tricks these thoughts can play.
Intro track ‘Sleepwalk’ acts as a prologue taking place inside a lucid dreamlike sequence. Mothica delivers lulling melodies to convey sweet memories of a lost love, as if calmly refusing to face reality and remain in the comfort of her fantasy. The title track is her snap back to real life, commencing the record’s shadowy tone. Now awake but still susceptible, she sings about putting on a façade as she sleepwalks through the day, only to let out her true colors at night.
The somber yet danceable ‘Sensitive’ puts lyrics about being a particularly sensitive introvert to an entrancing groove, while the earworm chorus of ‘Lullaby’ will suitably echo on in your head until you fall asleep. Vigorous lead single ‘Casualty’ shows another side of Mothica’s potential, drawing more from rock influences while maintaining the dusky electronic and alternative pop tone. This energy is used wisely for a song written as a vow to not die by suicide or drug overdose, and is executed well with the determination felt through lines like “Feel the pain and then kill it twice, I won’t be a casualty, No, I won’t go down like that.”
While I wish more songs hit the three-minute mark, she does manage to make each track count, however brief. Closing in on the final three, we hear a mishmash of sounds and styles including some metal-inspired guitar riffing from Polyphia’s Tim Henson in ‘The Reckoning’. This is immediately followed by light acoustic guitar in ‘Blood’ that quickly builds back into chaos, only to end the album on a more upbeat note with ‘Tears’, which reprises the mood from ‘Sleepwalk’ in a full-length song format.
Nocturnal is an in-depth examination of a mind struggling to find empowerment during recovery from addiction. The vivid imagery sustained from start to finish is enough to leave a memorable mark in Mothica’s discography, making for a promising sophomore record.
8 / 10