feature: elayna madden’s ‘broken heart syndrome’ is a perfect indie breakup record #soundcheck

September 19, 2014

When I got to Internationalist Books, a small radical infoshop in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, I found a small room. A few rows of folding chairs were set up. I was on tour and had a show fall through. “Call Elayna Madden,” my friend Greg from Speaker For The Dead told me. “They’ll help you figure something out.” Elayna sat quietly on a couch. There were only twelve or so of us in the room that night, but it might as well have been a hundred or none. The 18-year-old singer’s expressive voice transported the room, evaporating the shelves of anti-capitalist lit. While Broken Heart Syndrome may not have the intimacy of a performance in a small infoshop, it retains the same unassumingly massive voice capable of transporting you out of whatever space you’re in.

By Nathan Leigh, AFROPUNK Contributor

Elayna Madden’s music occupies a similar netherworld between folk punk, indie, and psychedelica as the Screaming Females’ Marissa Peternoster’s side project Noun, but with touches of Billie Holiday musicality. There’s an amazing tension between a voice as confident as Elayna’s singing songs about insecurity. That same tension exists on one of the album’s standout tracks, “Stuck.” When Elayna (who also plays all the instruments) sings “I’ve stepped away from relationship songs,” it’s hard not to appreciate the irony of it appearing on an album called Broken Heart Syndrome. We’ll call that lyric aspirational. “Antacids” features some of Elayna’s strongest songwriting on record, tracing the line between the resignation and anger at the end of a relationship.

“What Now?!” is a glorious fuck-you-I’m-awesome declaration. “You don’t like me & that’s OK, / Cos I’m much cooler than you anyway.” Despite a moment of strength, true to form, the record closes with the appropriately heart-breaking “Broken Heart Syndrome.” For 2:47 I’m transported to Internationalist Books being transported somewhere else entirely. “yr still so beautiful, and I am broken China.” Break-up albums are nothing new in indie rock, but rarely do they accomplish so much without wallowing in miserablism or faux rage.