Dizzy's Self-Titled Album Is a Silk-Wrapped Dagger

BY Alisha MughalPublished Aug 17, 2023

A few months ago, with hot tears stinging my eyes, I told a person I loved in a hungry sort of way that I hated them for destroying me. "I hope I haunt you forever," I texted him with my heart in my skull, banging against its walls. It was the meanest I've ever been, and I've been questioning my own culpability since, regretting not having hushed my anger and sadness. This guilt has been eating away at me until now, until Oshawa-based bleeding-hearts Dizzy's third studio album.

There's something nasty in Dizzy. It's full to the brim with a tempestuous vengeance, all the feelings that we, especially women, have been taught to conceal — anger, self-doubt, love-sickness, wilful hypocrisy, sadness, violence, regret, veritable madness. The album runs amok with these psyche-flagellating states, twisting in the mind and ricocheting against those we love and hate in love. With Dizzy, the band beautifully captures these mercurial feelings and gifts them like a silk-wrapped dagger — for in the process of leaning into the annihilatory fire, the quartet has emerged from all that human ugliness with knowledge of hope.   

More studied and skillfully unruly than their previous releases, Dizzy is a glimmering marvel, wise but also comfortable enough in itself to be fallible. Where Baby Teeth was lush as a peach — so juicy it nearly disintegrates and runs sticky down your arm — Dizzy whips like sea air. The album contains an ancient kind of rage, mediated by lead vocalist and lyricist Katie Munshaw's preternaturally self-aware poetry and perfectly underscored by the dissonant pop-rock sentimentality the band have been working toward for years.   

The album's cover depicts Munshaw in a glossy and sinister mask, its lips painted rusty as if in a powder of dried blood. It has wide openings for eyes that contain a piercing darkness, her strawberry blonde bangs acting as a frame. The entire image is blurred and blue, as if Munshaw is doing a macabre kind of dance — perhaps underwater, perhaps rushing against the wind. The cover seems to herald a coming into being for the band, more biting and steadfast and unignorable than the ascendance depicted on Baby Teeth. Accordingly, the music within carries a thrashing and terrifying loneliness, hurling daggers and hard-earned wisdom in Munshaw's lithe and eidolic voice, which seems to have gained much strength and breadth since the group's 2018 debut.

Dizzy's unruly, nasty rage is best exemplified by highlight "Starlings," which paints a harrowing vignette of the narrator shaking the titular birds from their trees, a person whose danger needs to be curbed by removing guns from the house. Munshaw cuts a frightening figure, one whose roiling inner workings, scanning to others as unsavoury and frightening, may ring familiar. "I don't want to fall asleep / I'm too busy dreaming about you," she sings. Munshaw speaks of being a nightmare, of making the other — the beloved "you" cry — while the "you" leaves their car unlocked so they always have a swift and easy getaway at the ready when "I let the dark get dark until it swallows me."  

"Starlings" brings to life the collision between one's madness — an effusion of ugly feelings women are taught to dim, taught to keep others from seeing — and a loved one who perhaps is trying their best, who perhaps is not trying hard enough. The track ends with a creaking door, solitary footsteps and an acoustic guitar playing for about a minute and a half. The kind of madness and darkness that "Starlings" charts often ends in loneliness; others so often leave scared, so often leave because it's easy. It's a breathtaking, heartbreaking masterpiece, haunting and scary for its tender depiction of self-curated implosion. 

In addition to its honest treatment of fearsomeness, Dizzy also tracks and delineates the bent of rage and various other unpalatable feelings. The ridiculing single "Birthmark" deliciously lambasts a cowering loser of an ex in an effort to ease one's own incessantly recurring pain; as she spits acid, Munshaw also holds space and thereby practises kindness for herself — she loved them, after all. "Knock the Wind," meanwhile, contains a sneering kind of violence. Through a folksy twang, Munshaw speaks to the surprise in one's own strength after betrayal, an appreciation that can coexist with the whirling desire to hurt those who've hurt us. Munshaw's lyrics have never so compellingly charted the complexity of feeling, have never cast them in such stark and intricate play.

"The girl with the bangs / Has a temper to match her / Strawberry hair," Munshaw sings on "Close." "When she flips you the bird / Understand she is mourning / The loss of a space in time," she continues. It's a track that breathes to life the bitter vacillation of closure: the reactionary, circuitous process of becoming stable, during which we tell ourselves that we aren't sad, that we're okay with the end. "If you've got to go, / Go," rings the aching chorus, an offer that belies its dark pain — inevitably, invariably we fall back on a guilty and self-ridiculing question: "Oh and when you go home / Is it me that you miss? / Can you divide the rotten fruit / From her pit?"

Munshaw's words honour all that is vile and hungry in us, revealing the beauty in allowing these feelings to bleed. "Salmon Season" begins like a macabre carnival of souls, playfully flickering between various moods; "I'll cut that loser right off," Munshaw spits, "look at the mess we're making in the name of love." But it's a kind of winking lie, for just earlier she confesses that all her songs "lead back to him." "I'm just somebody's daughter/ Devoid of all her sense," she sings, but it's another lie — there never was more sense and self-awareness than the kind present on this record. This "sense" is most delightfully evident in "Open Up Wide," a punchy headbanger that speaks to frustration with label demands. "I'll do it once more now with feeling / Do it once more now without," she sings, and it's funny — as if it were possible (for Dizzy) to do anything without feeling.

Munshaw's lyrics are masterful — not just in her refined, almost Didion-esque ability to paint scenes and psychic landscapes with a handful of words, but also in her confidently ironic wordplay. Her voice, too, contains a witty playfulness as it relishes in contorting words to honour her feelings; she often takes her time with syllables, as if savouring their saccharine or acerbic taste. Dizzy has always possessed a love for words, but on Dizzy, this love has evolved to be more than a reverence; it's an understanding of words as glimmering instruments, able to convey the most confounding and contradictory feelings. The music, too, has become incredibly refined and dextrous, with Alex Spencer's crystalline guitar work carrying Munshaw's vivacious, blood-red feelings in its grip. 

As Munshaw nears the end of charting all that is rebellious, dark and riotous within her — by extension validating the beautiful misfits in us all — she seems to land upon a balm. "Stupid 4 U," Dizzy's penultimate track, is a love song. After all the horror and sadness and anger that the album has communicated so far, it lands on an unexpected sweetness; "I think you are my family now," Munshaw sings. If this track is possible after everything that came before it, then perhaps pain truly can pass — "Stupid 4 U" is a mighty track, for it portends hope. But if that sounds too easy, don't be fooled; Dizzy's true ending comes at "Are You Sick of Me Yet?" and the mire returns. But this time around, Munshaw's voice is smirking and steady and seems not to care at all whether the answer to the titular question is a "yes"; she's already felt the heft of hope in "Stupid 4 U." 

The strength of the album's final track lies in its acceptance of the transitory state of being, with the circuitous logic of ugliness and nastiness within one's self. After honouring it, after feeling it, Munshaw has seen that it can pass — it's for this permissive revelation that Dizzy stands as the band's greatest achievement yet. Munshaw shows that it's okay to linger in our nastiness; in documenting her own journey of survival, she shows that we might make it too.
(Royal Mountain Records)

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