Romy Invites You to Cry on the Dance Floor with 'Mid Air'

BY Dylan BarnabePublished Sep 6, 2023

In the mid-2000s, Romy Madley Croft made a name for herself as a member of the three-pronged London band the xx, alongside bandmates Jamie Smith and Oliver Sim. The trio breathed new life into a particular brand of dusky indie minimalism, earning widespread acclaim and fervent fandom for their eponymous debut. Since then, both Smith and Sim have explored solo ventures, leaving many to wonder whether its third and final member would do the same. With the release of "Lifetime" in 2020 and then "Strong" with Fred Again.. two years later, Madley Croft tested the waters with scintillating singles before officially announcing the release of her debut album under her first name, Mid Air.

Where the xx cornered the market on quiet intimacy, Madley Croft finds room to run with big emotions on Mid Air – so much so that the album can't help but elicit a physical response through dance. Dubbed by the artist herself as a "coming-out album in a way," Mid Air is a joyous nod to Madley Croft's own queerness as well as a love letter to the dance music that inspired her youth. Having grown up DJ-ing in queer clubs, she sought to recreate the ecstasy and refuge of those free-flowing dancefloors. For many, dance music and underground club culture has long provided the space for the LGBTQ2 community to express themselves and escape from reality; all the while probing tender questions about gender, identity and equality. Mid Air is a true celebration of that core. 

Joined by producers Fred again.., Stuart Price and longtime collaborator Jamie xx, Madley Croft delivers a front-to-back knockout debut. Tender opener "Loveher" sets the tone for the album, as she sings "Dance with me shoulder to shoulder / Never in the world / Have two others been closer than us." At once, the proximity is palpable and the location is fixed. Filled with anthemic singles like the Beverly Glenn-Copeland-sampling "Enjoy Your Life," Mid Air sparkles with optimism, melancholy, hope, and introspection. That's not to say Madley Croft doesn't equally explore the depths of grief ("Strong") or ponder the harder questions about identity ("Twice") — Her ability to weave vulnerability into bass-heavy bangers speaks to the singularity of her talent. It doesn't come across as corny at any point, instead feeling fresh and, perhaps most importantly, fun. 

Madley Croft sings with a level of clarity that feels coloured by her newfound confidence. Notably, she makes frequent use of the pronouns "she" and "her" across a number of tracks, allowing herself to be fully visible — all the bashful romantic obfuscation of the xx is gone, replaced by a clear-eyed conviction. Never before have we heard Madley Croft be this personal and direct, and it feels like something special to witness.

Beyond its catchy melodies and serotonin-boosted beats, the album finds its heart with the one-two punch of the brief "Mid Air" as it segues into "Enjoy Your Life." After seeing a live performance by Beverly Glenn-Copeland of his timeless "La Vita," Madley Croft was left incredibly moved by its central phrase, "My mother says to me 'Enjoy Your Life.'" Madley Croft's own mother passed away when she was young, and as a standalone epigraph of sorts, the line centres itself as the philosophical core of Mid Air: life is short, enjoy it while you can. It seems apt to recall Maya Angelou's famous quote that "people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel" when discussing Madley Croft's solo efforts; above all, Mid Air champions feeling and shared connection. You'll remember it for a long while. 
(Young Records)

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