The Suicide Diary marks Summer Soul’s reunion with guitarist and producer Charming Lips since their previous collaborations on their singles “Couple” in 2017 and “Kill Your Darling” in 2018. The pair come back this time with a tighter, more intimate sound for a delightfully biting record for a sunny day.
At first, it’s tempting to lump Summer Soul X Charming Lips in with other lo-fi alternative bedroom pop acts that have taken off in recent years. Their music initially evokes the likes of artists such as No Vacation or SALES. Thematically, though, they revel much more in darkness, and are at times reminiscent of the millennial existential dread found in acts like Elvis Depressedly and girl in red.
20-year-old singer-songwriter Summer Soul (장은성), born in South Korea and raised in Malaysia, expertly crafts her bilingual verses with a witty touch of ironic humor. She breathes out her lyrics in English, and murmurs her Korean verses even softer. These lines weave fluidly together with her play on typical meter, where English can sound like Korean and vice versa. Summer Soul’s velvet voice smooths out these linguistic creases, supported by Charming Lips’s unaffected and simple instrumentals.
In this six-track montage, Summer Soul sings of relationships, jealousy, and wealth with an air of ease and laid-back indifference. The Suicide Diary starts with the jaded “What’s In Your Head?”, a song of an uninterested lover shaking her significant other off her leg. This could be the lo-fi breakup anthem of 2019. Summer Soul coolly displays this nonchalance later in “Foolish Frogs,” a consolation-turned-attack on her partner.
On “Billionaire,” Charming Lips’s addictive riffs imitate Summer Soul’s cheeky lines about being a sugar mama: “I guess you need Hermes / More than my heart / Yeah, I could be / I could be your bae.” This song nods at the conflict between acceptance and satire of consumerism (that is to say, ‘post-consumerism’).
Summer Soul hasn’t been shy about her philosophies on mortality – a topic that most around her age might find unsettling to discuss openly. While The Suicide Diary’s unaffected vocals and floating riffs take away from the morbidity of the lyrics, the treatment of the topic feels less a romanticization than a tongue-in-cheek incongruity between subject and substance. The song title “Million Reasons to Kill You” belies its lines of frustration at a partner who picks out the sausages from his food and flatulates too loudly.
On a lighter note, “I Love Milk” unapologetically borrows from the Internet’s cheesiest pickup lines: “I should call you ‘Google’ /You got every single thing /(I’ve) been searching so long in my life / you’re my appendix /’Cause this feeling in my stomach /Makes me want to take you out’. Summer Soul coos these lines in what are some of her gentlest and sincerest moments on the EP. By the time one arrives at the end of The Suicide Diary with the sweet and reminiscent “To My Lovers,” it’s easy to forget those cruel and nasty bits, and look back with glittery eyes on the past.