Donna Missal shows growth and ferocity on new record

Donna Missal shows growth and ferocity on new record
Reader Rating6 Votes
3.9

Raw, relatable, ruthless: lighter is an insight into the force and finesse of American artist Donna Missal. Powerful vocals navigate us through a record which is undeniably moving and irresistibly applicable – I have already wrecked my own voice trying to keep up. No regrets.

Opening to the epic sound of ‘how does it feel’, the strength and emotion of the first track sets us up for what quickly appears to be a powerful sophomore album. Shying away from the restrictions of one set genre, Donna opts for incorporating the rock, pop and country she grew up on. Twangs of guitar, steady drums and vocals like no other reverberate across all ten tracks, but it’s the little things which make the album stand out: the subtle harmonies, the murmuring guitars in the background – the record’s production is ambient, delicate and evidently precise. The overall result, as seen on her debut, is a worked sound which bleeds authenticity; lighter isn’t looking to be your next favourite pop or rock album, it seeks only to offer consolation to those who hear it. Between the force of Donna’s voice and the realness of her lyrics, it certainly seems that the record hits its target.

Donna opens up on lighter in a way we didn’t see on This Time (2018), using music as a method of self-expression. Cathartic for both artist and listener, the record is woven with the experience of bittersweet heartache and the enlightenment of self-discovery: ‘I’m in love with what we were but not with you’ she admits on the pain-laden single ‘hurt by you’ (banger). Be it album-closer ‘i’m not ready’ or the reminiscent country-rock of ‘best friend’, the feelings explored on lighter make you want to lock the doors and scream the words until your neighbours call to complain. Between you and me, it’s worth the telling-off.

While much of the album strives to reflect Donna’s emotion through loud, heartfelt tracks (‘carefully’, ‘just like you’), lighter takes a step back on a couple of slower, more stripped-back numbers. ‘slow motion’ welcomes in the gentle, soulful tones of a piano to accompany her lyrics, building gradually into something which bubbles but never quite erupts. But ‘bloom’ is where we really see her variety. Acoustic guitars play alongside the sweet vocal melody, one which is equally powerful sonically and lyrically as she steps beyond herself to recognise another’s needs: ‘I don’t want to be the reason you don’t shine / Realise I’m standing in your light […] I don’t want to be the reason you don’t bloom’. Heart-breaking and raw, this track encompasses Donna’s capacity for reflection as well as her talent as a musician – one for a long walk on a rainy day, this one.

While it could be said that the record lacks a certain fluidity between numbers, what the album lacks in cohesiveness it more than makes up for in its fierce, vital honesty. Progressive, challenging and passionate, lighter is exemplary of a talented young artist stripping music down to its fundamental use: release.   

Haiku Review:
lighter gets heavy,
Feelings palpable through song.
Big themes, bigger voice.

lighter is out tomorrow, Friday 10 July 2020 – listen to Donna on Spotify and Apple Music. Grab yourself a copy of the newest issue of our fabulous mag for more great reviews and exclusive content; Volume 9 available HERE.