SOUNDSCAPE: MILLENNIAL ANGST

October 13, 2019

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Brown Sugar EP by Shamoon Ismail
Brown Sugar EP by Shamoon Ismail

They say in the modern digital age, music albums are dying a slow painful death. Only a few traditionalists still cling stubbornly to the format until they too, eventually, are forced to let go.

People are consuming far more media than they have ever before. With the unholy trinity of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter keeping us connected to what other people are up to in real time, and nearly unlimited options for entertainment on platforms such as YouTube, Spotify, Netflix, Amazon Prime, the local variant iFlix, we just don’t have the mind space or attention span to keep us engaged to one body of music for more than a few minutes. Asking that we do so for an hour or more is too much, nearly impossible.

So, what does an artiste do when he/she wants to release work that’s a collection instead of a single? When it comes to music, they bring out EPs of course. And currently, in Pakistan, Shamoon Ismail seems to have cracked that code with the release of his third EP after Cookie (2018) and Magic (2019). His latest is called Brown Sugar and songs from it are already topping the charts (and staying there) on Patari.

An overview of Shamoon Ismail’s latest four-song EP, Brown Sugar

On listening to Brown Sugar, it’s not hard to understand why. The songs are quick and short — between two minutes and 13 seconds to two minutes and 59 seconds long. They’re pop songs, bilingual Punjabi-English lyrics that are simple enough to follow. The music is mostly pop, but there’s a bit of hip hop and rap as well. Overall, it’s easy listening. The kind of music you listen to on a drive where you’re not pondering life’s questions.

There are four songs in this EP — Backup Plan, Chal, Late Night and Scheming. The songs deal with youthful angst and romance. Not in the most profound or deepest way, but just enough to communicate them effectively.

Like much of Shamoon’s previously released music, Backup Plan is a millennial love story. In a refreshing twist, it’s the man telling his (potential) lover that he’s not her ‘back-up plan.’ Chal is a rap song filled with angst about the ‘hard life’ of a privileged millennial. Following in the footsteps of Chal, Scheming is a Punjabi rap song about keeping it real and staying true to your art, even after making it big — on social media and, presumably, in life. They’re also the two shortest songs in the collection.

Taking the cake in this EP, however, is Late Night. The song evokes a post-party-going-home atmosphere and feeling philosophical and like the night isn’t over. The song is like a Late Night phone call that actually goes through and you think out loud over life and the things you use to fill them — routine, substance, the depth of your human connections — and wonder what out of these will it take to finally feel complete?

Maybe Shamoon’s next EP will have the answers he’s looking for.

Published in Dawn, ICON, October 13th, 2019