Hard candy is frustrating. It’s sticky and gets stuck to the wrapper. You can’t chew it, but it takes too long to just lick. The texture is frustrating — one moment, you’re staring at a rock of colored nothingness. The next, you’re prying nuggets of crunchy sugar from the pits of your molars. Without fail, it makes you feel like crap when all is said and done. It is, after all, just a hunk of candy.
And yet, with every hunk of candy, there’s momentary bliss behind each wrapper. You have one Jolly Rancher, which puts your jaw through hell, but when you’re finished, you’re staring back down into the bag, wondering if one more would be so bad. Perhaps this is what Ilana Held, a Colorado-by-way-of-Boston-by-way-of-Cardiff Indie rock artist who goes by Mystee, was thinking when she named her most recent single “hard candy.”
Perhaps this was a pointless rant about the duality of a stupid, no-good, delectable indulgence. At any rate, the record is a well-delivered croon to someone that no longer loves her back, and, despite knowing that it’s a self-harming, futile effort, Mystee can’t get this formerly significant other out of her teeth.
The arrangement on “hard candy” is loose and laid back. The drums crash and pop into each other like waves, rolling alongside guitar chords played with less of a “pluck” or “strum” and more of a brush. It all melds together satisfyingly and paves way for Held’s pleading, melancholic vocals, which ask “Do you love her? I don’t wanna know.”
If she didn’t want the answer, Held wouldn’t have asked in the first place But, she keeps returning to the same question. It’s a constant reminder of the painful game of mental tennis that goes on in the aftermath of a breakup — a theme that Mystee captures well.
After a stint with a rock band in the UK called Glass Jackets, Held decided to move back to Boston, where the artist, Mystee, officially took shape. It wasn’t until she brought her talents to Denver that Mystee went from “me” to “we” — she now runs with a four-piece band, and plays out of Fort Collins. Their first record as a full-fledged group was “hard candy,” and as a unit, it’s a promising sign of folk/indie rock fusion and a new, blossoming approach to Mystee’s sound.
In Case You Missed It (ICYMI) is an ongoing series for 303 Magazine where we talk about the music you may have missed when it initially dropped. Have something you think we missed? Email inquiries for the series to firstname.lastname@example.org.