Indigo De Souza brings harrowing songbook to Great American Music Hall
Indigo De Souza, the 24-year-old singer-songwriter who released one of the best albums of the last year, might not always get your jokes.
“In my everyday life, I’m just not very good at understanding sarcasm,” said de Souza, who performs at the Great American Music Hall on March 31. “When people talk to me, I get legitimately confused if they have a sarcastic kind of humor. I just don’t understand.
De Souza’s lack of appreciation for irony should come as no surprise to anyone who has listened to “Any Shape You Take,” his 2021 album. An expressive tour de force, each song on the record candidly examines different stages of grief, without forbidden subject and injury-free too fresh for de Souza to exploit raw, confessional offerings.
If you’ve ever had a miserable date on Tinder with an unbearable jerk, or woke up with a painful hangover and bouts of self-loathing, or helplessly witnessed a long term that is collapsing before your eyes, this album is made for you. De Souza is fearless and outspoken in addressing the emotional gamut of relationships, tackling treachery and pleasure with equal aplomb. One moment she boasts of the beauty of companionship, the next she laments the tragedy of betrayal. De Souza’s laconic statements on the dystopian “Kill Me” are a good example of this: “Baby, darling, devil / I love you”.
Throughout “Any Shape You Take,” De Souza’s vocals are a fascinating barometer of romantic angst. She ranges from self-tuned fantasy on the album opener “17” – a hymn to young love – to howling, cracked despair on “Bad Dream”, a restless chant of despair. She moves seamlessly between the ups and downs of loving someone else, an eerie experience that feels genuine due to her penchant for recounting her life in painfully realistic terms.
“I’ve never written a song from someone else’s perspective, or really about another person’s experience,” De Souza said. “I wouldn’t really know how to do that. All of these songs are about portraying the emotions of multiple relationships – of those transitional times in my life. I don’t really know how else to write.
Like all great singer-songwriters, De Souza combines these introspective reflections with a bold and inventive musical palate. The sonic backdrops aren’t just a backdrop for his diaristic leanings — they add real weight and depth. “Die/Cry”‘s springy guitar and headstrong tempo reinforce the song’s desperate devotion, while pulsating bass work and staccato rhythm infuse a disco feel to the lively and cheerful dance floor number “Hold U”, a mashup of Fleetwood Sensibilities Mac and Chic. “Real Pain” ends with a disorienting cascade of white noise, an unsurprising development, given the song’s title and its callous portrayal of self-loathing and guilt.
De Souza said she was inspired by chameleon artists like Arthur Russell – roubadours who could shed genres and meet expectations with deft skill. Trying to pin down a specific musical aesthete for “Any Shape You Take” would be impossible – De Souza and his production defy easy categorization.
“I’ve always been drawn to albums when I feel like someone is really exploring the limits of what they can do – that they’re not stuck in one modality when playing music,” De Souza said. “I like the idea of being that shapeshifter.”
De Souza’s innovative musical ear and heart-on-the-sleeve lyricism resonated with fans and music critics, who praised “Any Shape You Take”. She’s set to bring those songs to an ever-wider audience this year, with a schedule that includes numerous appearances at large-scale music festivals and a slate of opening dates for the jam-band legend. My Morning Jacket, in addition to their current headlining tour.
These dates will all be additional moments for De Souza to bare his soul in front of thousands of people – an experience that would be daunting at best and traumatic at worst for most people, but one that comes completely naturally to him.
“I never thought it was weird or abnormal to approach art that way — to be completely honest,” De Souza said. “It feels like that’s the most natural way to interact with a listener, because if you’re open and honest with someone, they can be open and honest with themselves and maybe access emotions he might have ignored. There’s a lot of bad shit going on in the world right now, and there’s not much I can do about it. But providing that kind of safe space for people to manage their lives might help a little bit.
IF YOU ARE GOING TO:
Indigo De Souza with Field Medic
Or: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., SF
When: 8 p.m., Thursday March 31
Contact: (415) 885-0750, gamh.com