*The Following Press Release Was Issued By Clandestine PR*
Genres: Indie, Bedroom Pop, Indie Pop
RIYL: Soccer Mommy, Japanese Breakfast, Frankie Cosmos, Sidney Gish, Lala Lala
Gengos conducts her unvarnished self-interrogations via songs as sweet and light as whipped cream. – Mariana Timony, Bandcamp Daily
a solitary work of insular beauty, reflecting over years of nostalgia-laden dreaming. – Caleb Campbell, Under The Radar
Mechanical Sweetness is the sound of Alyssa Gengos embracing everything she loves about music and shaping it into her own brilliant image – 2022 might just have got its first unmissable new act. – For The Rabbits
Photo by Morgan Hamilton
Here’s what Alyssa had to say about the meaning behind the song and the video:
After moving back in with my mother in Los Angeles during lockdown, I found myself retreating into the depths of my own mind, sifting through memories of adolescence and young adulthood and dreaming about what the future may hold. While there was some comfort in fantasy, I realized I was losing touch with reality. “In the Real World” expresses my desire to be honest to myself about what’s worth my time and energy, and to put that into practice. That doesn’t only mean searching for the highs of life, though – accepting the harshness of reality is just as important. When I wrote this song, I was starting a new phase in my life, and I knew there was an opportunity to really dissect my childish, selfish mistakes from the previous phase. To me, a large part of maturity is learning how to deal with life’s consequences. “In the Real World” is a plea to myself to be more honest, intentional, and self-aware, and to grow up while still holding onto that inner child.
photo by Sam Setzer
ABOUT THE ALBUM
During this past year, when the stimuli from the outerworld ceased, Alyssa Gengos was having some weird-ass dreams. In one that stuck with her, she dreamt that an old school bully was being kind to her. “That was a very strange dream for me to have because I don’t think about this person really ever,” she says. “But it reflected to me that I have this really deep desire to be liked.” So poignant was this realization that it makes two appearances on her debut full-length Mechanical Sweetness, which melds her dreams and personal nostalgia into a new-wavey indie rock homecoming album.
Leaving New York about a year and a half ago, Gengos returned to Los Angeles to piece together a project showcasing her work at self-awareness and growth. The result is her first album to be released properly under her real name—prior to that, she’d been making music under the moniker Kythira since she was around 14 years old.
Representative of her life-long musical practice, this album is a solitary act. It was produced, written and recorded all by Gengos—except for the drums which were mapped out digitally and then recorded live. A self-taught musician, aside from a few guitar lessons when she was younger, Gengos learned vulnerability from the inevitable solitude of growing up in the Los Angeles suburbs.
“I feel most comfortable when I’m completely alone,” she explains. “I just spent a lot of time alone at home. And I didn’t live near any of my friends either. So, I was never playing music with other people as a kid when I started. It’s what I’m used to and that actually is what taught me to be really vulnerable. Not like the other way around. I don’t seek out solitude because I want to be vulnerable. I’m used to solitude, so that allows me to be vulnerable.”
Vulnerability’s embrace was the only way Gengos knew how to improve as a musician. Inspired by bands like Girlpool and the Garden who got bigger and bigger outside of the LA DIY scene, she began performing with groups while living in NYC before striking out on her own. For Gengos, putting music out solo was an opportunity to get feedback and learn.
Her panoply of influences includes the Beatles 1 comp her parents bought her from Costco, Avril Lavigne’s Let Go and Hilary Duff’s Metamorphosis as she grew more into her pop-minded self, the ‘80s new wave she became acquainted with while at school in NYC, the big festival bands of the 2010s like Arctic Monkeys and MGMT and her major influential loves Panda Bear and Todd Rundgren. Mechanical Sweetness also celebrates the roads that Gengos grew up driving and the music indebted to that area, finding inspiration in retro-inspired bands like Foxygen, who’s from the same town. Even more importantly, this album feels like a return to self for Gengos.
She takes stock of the past, putting the memories back together and making a new sense of them. Like its title, the album is vivid, yet unprocurable. “When I try to visualize it, I think of sparkling lights; you think it’s natural light and then it turns out to be electric lights,” she says about the album’s name. “It feels representative of the sound because I made this album completely on my laptop. And I think it sounds like an album that was produced on a laptop, even though I tried so hard to make it sound sort of vintage, like I was using a tape machine.”
Over the course of Mechanical Sweetness, Gengos unlocks a new understanding of herself. The cinematic opener “LAX Arrival Scene” paints the scene of a ghostly starlet channeling David Bowie. She could be anyone to us: “See right through me / Forget my name / I don’t care anymore.” On the following “Gothenburg English,” we’re let in on a life-changing heartbreak that she’s finally begun to heal from. It’s a timeless dance remedy for a broken heart that could fit in the ‘60s or ‘80s, distilling the yearning of girl groups and the intensity of Pat Benatar. She reflects about growing up a suburban gal on the outskirts of a city renowned for its grime and glamour on “Good Light.”
But it’s the title track that Gengos says is the most revealing. “To me, it feels like the most vulnerable song because there’s a line in the chorus that says, ‘I got it all so wrong while my heroes sang along.’ That was the process of making the album. It was a lot of working through my feelings and seeing what I’ve done wrong over the past couple years and what I can learn from and what I let happen to me that I shouldn’t have let happen to me.”
It’s only fitting that an album indebted to the solitary creative process ends with a lovesong to driving. Named after the road where Gengos first felt that rush of freedom after getting her driver’s license, “O Kanan Dume” captures that liberating euphoria. On Mechanical Sweetness, she reminds us how good it feels to be alone. How the most powerful embrace can be from yourself.
All songs written, performed, recorded, and produced by Alyssa Gengos.
Drums on tracks 2, 4, 6, 7, and 9 performed by Sam Setzer and recorded by David Lantzman.
Mastered by Allen Bergendahl.
Cover photography by Morgan Hamilton
Text and inner sleeve artwork by Alyssa Gengos
Layout design by Emily Taylor.