It’s difficult to write candidly about mental illness and existential dread. Not only is it terrifying to admit and acknowledge those feelings to begin with, you also run the risk of self-indulgent self-pity once you get going. You might start drowning in your own misery as you start to believe your intrusive thoughts. And ultimately, that’s not particularly useful or particularly interesting. For your words to really get through to other people, you have to be able to extend a little grace to yourself – acknowledge the pain while also recognizing that your thoughts are probably a bit distorted.
Superdestroyer understands this. From the opening track of his latest album, SoakedInSynth.Zip, he admits that, yeah, sometimes he feels like shit, but he doesn’t have to give those feelings too much power. They’re a little silly after all, aren’t they? “I’m just a cartoon demon / I come to poke your brain at night. More misunderstood than evil / I just get bored sometimes.”
I’ve been doing a lot of therapy lately, which puts me in a pretty fitting headspace to listen to this album about drowning in your own emotions. And maybe it’s the therapy-brain talking, but the cartoon demon metaphor really, really spoke to me. It’s a really clever cognitive re-framing – it’s charming, it’s relatable, and it takes the power away from those negative ruminations. The refrain lodged itself deeply into my mind. I actually found myself humming it to myself the other day as a negative thought loop started cycling. It reminded me that I didn’t actually have to feel too bad about whatever shitty thought I had started thinking. It was just that silly little cartoon demon poking my brain. Nothing to worry about.
SoakedInSynth.zip is all about sitting with your thought distortions, feeling your overwhelming feelings, and then riding the wave back to (relative) normalcy. The synth is the perfect instrument to sonically illustrate these themes. It’s a ridiculously versatile instrument – you can bend it to sound metallic and harsh, or lush and immense, or even have it imitate more traditional analog sounds. Thoughts, too, can shift and bend just as seamlessly as a synth can. They can hurt, they can overwhelm; but they can also comfort and warm.
From the abrasive distorted scrapings on “ACrushingWaveOfDepression.wav” to the pleasant confusion of “ASpontaneousFitOfJoy,” Superdestroyer uses the synth to explore the full range of human emotion and thoughtscapes in just over sixteen minutes. The occasional celestial intermission further paints this transient headspace, and the use of breakbeat-like percussions and various whimsical flourishes (like the narrative framing of “Don’tTryBySuperdestroyer.wav” being based around trauma-dumping to a student loan collection robocall) give the whole album a unique and distinctive texture.
GOON, Superdestroyer’s previous concept album about a depression-filled beach vacation, is similarly impressive in terms of narrative scope and vision. But SoakedInSynth.zip takes those feelings of ennui and anxiety even further, creating something that’s both incredibly personal and incredibly relatable. Since the start of the pandemic, days have felt like they’ve been bleeding together, and with so many Unprecedented Historical Events happening back-to-back it’s felt like drowning in an endless wave of emotion and worry. What better way to illustrate these immense feelings than with emo synthpunk?
It’s a genuinely affecting mini-album, and the fact that I’ve looped these sixteen minutes over and over without feeling bored once is a testament to Superdestroyer’s talent. His album flows together so well, with each song feeding into the other seamlessly. His bite-sized ventures into the sweeping emotional hell that is “being alive and feeling” are visceral bursts of hook-filled catharsis.