The first thing you notice in “Zucchini Dreams (Aubergine Memories)” is Saya Gray’s voice. While she started her career as a bassist supporting musicians like Daniel Caesar, she now presents a unique ghostly contralto that reinforces the stark honesty in lines like, “Tell me I need your help come suck it / Tell me I need new friends but fuck it / I’ll make it trendy to have none at all”. Her voice stands out even more than the angst, and with her production, she fills every crevice in the sonic space. There’s a distorted electric guitar layered with another that is more melancholy, and there are outbursts of thick, gritty bass lines that reflect her musical beginnings – she even wrote the song while touring as a bassist.
Dismissal and denial seem to intertwine in Gray’s lyrics, made a whirlwind by the restless pace of the song’s first half. There’s a sense that she’s running away from her true feelings, from loss or maybe from hurt – “Please don’t leave”, she sings – and it’s marked with even more clarity when Gray adopts a sharp, accusatory tone in the repeated, “All alone my weeds will grow / The roses you stole”. It’s subtle, but there are times you can hear her voice begin to crack with each candid lyric.
What remains in its second half is a sense of distance, with swirling guitar melodies (played by Gray’s brother) and Gray’s layered croons creating the impression of dreams and memories. Even as an increase in tempo and brighter harmonies suggest hope, Gray’s whisper-like croons continue to hint at something otherwise: “Sixty seconds till I’m all alone”. Her lyrics are more dejected – “I don’t want to speak more than I need to / I don’t want to feel more than I want to” – and with each repetition, are more fragmented. For a song that started so tumultuously, its steadier second half illustrates a bleak acceptance of solitude. It takes a few listens to realise the hurt underlying its vivid production, but it makes Saya Gray all the more captivating as a rising solo artist.