A Review of Sasha Sloan’s New EP “Self Portrait”

On June 25, I got in a car and drove from San Diego to Anaheim with two friends to go see LANY. It was my fourth time seeing them, so I knew how their shows go. I knew what to expect in terms of energy from the crowd, energy from the band, and how euphoric I’d feel after. I hadn’t looked up either opener: Sasha Sloan or FLETCHER. That night, Riah was replacing FLETCHER anyway. I figured each opener would play thirty, maybe forty-five minutes. I’ve discovered some of my favorite bands through openers at concerts, but every show I go to, my expectations are low, because I’ve also seen some really bad openers. I should have known better; LANY never disappoints. So when Sasha Sloan walked on stage, I was immediately captivated. For starters, she’s beautiful. Her thick fringe, pointed bone structure, and oversized jean jacket got the crowd's attention. She introduced herself and took the time to introduce each of her songs, where she was at the point in her life where she wrote them, and how things have changed since then. I love when artists give us a behind the scenes look at their songs, so I ate up every word she shared. When she began to sing, I knew I had once again discovered a favorite artist from an opener.

Sloan is very open about having stage fright, and it’s amazing to watch her get more comfortable on stage as her performance progresses. A few songs in, she asked, “How many of you have divorced parents?” to which about half the room cheered in response. Realizing what she had made the crowd do, she giggled awkwardly and said, “I’m really sorry about that,” before introducing one of her most popular songs, “Older.” The song talks about how her parents fighting all the time and their divorce impacted her―a sad but real truth to which many people can relate. I fell in love with Sasha Sloan because of her honest lyrics and the way she talks about a demon I have been struggling with for years: depression. When she performed “Thoughts,” a song about how she’s sometimes unable to enjoy herself and live in the moment because “sometimes [she] just can’t control her thoughts,” I remember immediately turning to my friends and saying “I love her,” and being confused when they said her lyrics were too sad for them to want to listen to her music all the time. I was enthralled by her honesty on a topic so many artists sing about, but (in my opinion) miss the mark.

Friday, October 18, Sloan released her newest EP, called “Self Portrait.” The first song on the EP is “Thoughts,” a song I never get sick of listening to. A line that caught my attention when I first listened to it and continues to, for a lack of better words, hit different, is: “I swear to God I’m trying but I don’t know how to be / how to be a good friend to me.” Earlier this year, I was the most depressed/anxious I’ve ever been in my life (side note: why do anxiety and depression have to come hand-in-hand? They don’t pay rent? But I still have to suffer through both?). This line was everything to me. I was (and continue to be) so grateful to Sasha Sloan for singing about something so personal in such a brutally honest way. I found solace in her lyrics. I found myself.

Only three of the seven songs on “Self Portrait” are new, the first in the line up being “Thank God.” I had no idea what to expect from this song because Sloan has never really talked about religion in her music. In true Sasha Sloan fashion, she finds the good in everything, singing, “Thank God for making a hell / Thank God for making a place full of fire / and greedy ass liars / where I’m just like everyone else / Thank God for hell.” She talks about how she’ll be able to smoke and tell f-cked up jokes and “eternally just be [herself].” I smiled through the song because all the reasons she lists for why she’ll go to hell are super common things a lot of us do. Like having sex before marriage, having impure thoughts, and not going to church unless we’re forced to. The pre-chorus of the song goes, “So if the pearly gates / won’t open up for me / at least I know / there’s somewhere else I can go,” and the punchline of the song comes in the bridge, where it changes to “So if the pearly gates / won’t open up for me / fuck ‘em.” It’s Sloan coming to terms with the fact that she “sins” regularly, and admitting she’d rather have fun in this life than wait for all the fun in the afterlife. It’s a good, easy-going song that challenges what we consider “sin.”

Following “Thank God” is “Keep On.” I know this is a song I’m going to listen to when I have bad days. She talks about how on her bad days, she’ll talk to herself to remind herself that she’s human, and she’ll get through it. I was walking through the quad the first time I heard the lyrics, “Sometimes, I wish I was somebody else / when my mind starts misbehaving / that’s when I tell myself / okay, baby, you’ll be okay,” and I smiled so big. I got a few weird looks, but I couldn’t help it―that’s exactly what I tell myself when I’m having a panic attack. My mom calls me “baby,” and she’s by far the best person at calming me down when I have a panic attack. Being in Seattle while she’s in San Diego, though, means I’m not always physically with her when I have a panic attack, so here’s what I do instead: talk to myself like my mom would. And usually, it goes something like this: “You’ll be okay, baby. It’s just a panic attack, it happens, but you’re safe, you’re in your room, and you’re going to get through it.”

“Dancing With Your Ghost” isn’t a new song, but it’s one that I go to when I’m entering not-serious sad boy hours. The song is about either a break up or a death, and how she can’t move on so every night she’s dancing with their ghosts. Following is “at least i look cool,” which is a hilarious and a #relatable song. Sloan sings about how “tonight [she’s] going out [and] getting off [her] shitty couch.” She hates the party life, the entire time she’s at the party she recognizes that she’s trying too hard to fit in and that she’s kind of bored, “but at least [she] looks cool.” One of my favorite lines that makes me laugh everytime is, “But before I leave I know I gotta / find somewhere dope that I can pose / adjust my hair, adjust my clothes / so I can get this fire post” because come on, how many times have we been somewhere where we’d rather be anywhere else, but dammit, I’m going to get a good picture for Instagram because I’m out and I’m having “fun” and I’m going to show it off!

The third new song on the EP is “Too Sad To Cry” and let me just say―wow. Once again, Sloan is brutally honest about her experience with depression and how quickly she’ll isolate herself and let the void consume her on her bad days. I love this song because I’ve been there, and sometimes I’m still there. Depression can be a debilitating thing, and sometimes you feel so heavy you can’t even cry, even though it’s all your body wants to do. I’ve had many an anxiety attack where once I get out a heavy duty cry, I feel better. And the moments where I physically cannot release that is terrifying. “Too Sad To Cry” perfectly encapsulates that feeling, as well as the fear that self-isolation can bring.

The last song on the EP (and in my opinion, the perfect song to end the EP with) is “smiling when i die.” This song is about accepting whatever blocks you have that are making you feel held back, and letting them go. She talks about how she doesn’t want to look back on her life and have any regrets, so “I’ma call my mother / it’s been a while since I’ve been home / take a trip in the summer / see all the lights in Tokyo / get lost in the desert / just to see what I can find / so when it’s my time, I / I’m smiling when I die.” I listen to this song all the time. I listen to this when I’m walking home and looking up at the clouds; I listen to this song when I’m lying on my bedroom floor and listening to music too loudly with headphones. When I’m sad, happy, nostalgic, homesick. I know I’ve said I love all these songs (and I do) but this song means something so special to me, and one of my favorite things about it is that I don’t know why. It’s one of those songs that instantly elevates my mood and makes me feel weightless.

I love and appreciate Sasha Sloan because she sings about having a mental illness and living with it.  Changing the type of music I listen to from “I’m depressed and life sucks” to “I’m depressed but this is my life and I’m going to make the most of it because dammit, it’s my life and I’m going to make the best of it” has helped me immensely. I no longer listen to sad playlists to revel in my sadness. I listen to Sasha Sloan to acknowledge and validate my feelings, then figure out how to move forward.