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“Where are you, my sunny feeling I knew as a kid?”
This is the question that Origami Angel asks with their latest output, a sharp and shining 8-song mixtape called The Brightest Days. Its opening title track begins with one of many new tricks for the DC two-piece––a ukulele––but quickly turns left-field as the hopeful, childhood innocence makes way for blistering intensity and hopelessness. Told through the lens of a shitty east coast summer, The Brightest Days was written throughout the spring and summer of 2020, and later recorded in August 2022 with producer Drew Portalatin, with assistance from Jake Chekoway and vocalist/guitarist Ryland Heagy (he/him).
Across the mixtape are some of the most creative and adventurous moves Gami has ever made, including a ska section AND a breakdown––in the same song. It follows the surprise release of back-to-back EPs in Fall 2022, the acoustic re:turn and hardcore DEPART, and shows that not only is Origami Angel capable of exploring both sounds individually but they can find new ways to bring them together, too. Not quite an EP or an LP, the differences between each track on The Brightest Days is what makes it such a special release, and thus garnering the ‘mixtape’ moniker; diving into specific tones and different vocal techniques on each track allowed Heagy and drummer Pat Doherty (he/him) to shine in ways they never have before.
Tracks like “Thank You New Jersey” take typical California tropes and apply them to the overcrowded beaches of New Jersey; “Kobayashi Maru (My Very Own)” is all about speed and surf energy, and it’s where we find the chorus backed by both a ska section and a breakdown. Later, “Looking Out” finds Ryland’s voice at its most vulnerable with zero vocal editing and recorded in one take alongside the ukulele; and “My PG County Summer” captures what it’s like to grow up in the DC area, where teachers tell you you should be grateful to live somewhere with so much political history, meanwhile right-wing protestors travel from all over the world to your city streets on the regular for the same reason.
During the spring of 2020, Ryland was hospitalized for a period of time; as it was the early days of COVID, he was unable to have visitors and felt an even more dystopian air to the world around him. With nothing to do but think, he reflected on what this time might mean for his younger brother, who was in grade school at the time. A summer of youth was basically stripped that year, and a level of concern for normal childhood experiences existed that Ryland himself didn’t have to go through. That contrast really stuck with him as he began writing the songs that would end up on this mixtape, and it’s why there’s a duality between feeling positive—like you do when the last bell hits before summer break—and a downtrodden, late August hopelessness, too.
By the end of the mixtape, on its closing track, Gami uses the Mid-Atlantic east coast rain as a metaphor and answer to the question that opens it up—you have to get through some real storms to find that sunny feeling again. The Brightest Days may be few and far between—with
that gap stretching further each day—but as a mixtape, it’s a cloudless collection of the most realized and strongest music that Origami Angel has written yet.