Maalavika Manoj, popularly known as Mali, is known for her ethereal compositions, mostly drawn from her melancholic experiences. What sets her apart from the rest is that she portrays it in a rather uplifting manner with intricate storytelling. For her debut EP ‘Rush’ which was released in 2017, she went for a more country/folk-rock feel. After releasing of a couple of singles (Mango Showers & Play) Mali decided to change her style for her recently released debut album ‘Caution to the Wind’ (CTTW). The Chennai-bred singer/composer has fused elements of synth-pop, retro electro-pop, and indie rock, resulting in a cinema-like auditory experience for the listeners.
Earlier this year, the Mumbai-based singer got featured in the annual 30 Under 30 list of Forbes India for her remarkable journey from a BBA graduate to the self-sustaining musician she is now. In March, the songstress was chosen as one of 36 upcoming artists for Spotify’s global emerging artist initiative, RADAR, which focuses on promoting the next wave of international superstars with the aid of their global marketing and editorial teams.
CTTW, released on 1st April, comprises 8-mid length tracks with a total duration of 28 minutes, on which Mali had been working for the last 2 years. In this modern music distribution era, a classic strategy used by independent artists to build anticipation for an album is launching singles before releasing the entire record. 27-year old singer/songwriter followed the same approach and released her 1st single ‘Age of Limbo’ during the infamous lockdown of 2020 when the whole world was standing still. The song was accompanied by a video which is a compilation of drone footage from different parts of the world conveying how uncertain the times were. ‘Absolute,’ which was released a few months later in August, shows Mali’s scepticism by questioning those in charge and pointing out their false claims. Around the end of the year, the 3rd single from the album was released called ‘Mundane‘ that established a new theme for the album where synthpop meets retro style electro-pop.
The fact that Mali has taken risks by integrating a multi-genre production and doesn’t hesitate to turn back and forth between emotionally vulnerable and self-assertive states of mind is a captivating feature of this album. While working on this album with Mumbai-based producer Arnob Bal, Mali took it a step further by studying arrangements and various facets of production and further implementing it in her music. The list of fresh songs that the album offers, starts with ‘Live Again’, a neo-electropop number that is about powering through the difficult times with a belief that ‘This too shall pass’. ‘Cabaret‘ is what charges up the album with its 80s themed grooves and layered vocals which is about people running their slow marathons regardless of how shiny & fast-paced things look on the horizon.
Mali’s fascination with the fact that how people are obsessed with astrology & fate is evident in the slow-paced alt-rock track ‘Horoscope’ which rises to a crescendo halfway through. Mali’s songwriting is typically influenced by her own life experiences. She isn’t one to romanticise and sugarcoat things; instead, she holds it honest by highlighting the downside. However, on ‘Sitting on the Fence,’ she is attempting to finish her battle with her significant other by persuading them to make amends as soon as possible. The curtain falls with the slowest and probably the most melancholic track ‘Really? Not Really’ which Mali wrote while going through a period of depression, in which she tries to express that it’s always darkest before the dawn.
Mali has worked on this with a bunch of known figures from the scene – Jehangir Jehangir contributed for drums while Singer/songwriter Tejas Menon, Jishnu Guha a.ka Short Round, and Apurv Isaac appear on guitars throughout. A music video for ‘Live Again’ is going to be released on 17th April and we can’t wait to see it given Mali’s previous aesthetically pleasing visuals. Listen to ‘Caution to the Wind’ on any major streaming platform of your choice.