Maryam Said isn’t afraid to wear their heart on their sleeve. Influenced by the folk music of Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) and a steady diet of punk rock and hardcore, the Toronto native, under the name poolblood, writes deeply vulnerable stories about platonic love and relationships between friends and lovers. Her melodic voice, as sweet as it is nostalgic, sits over a bed of semi-acoustic grunge guitars and layers of fuzzy bass reminiscent of early Nirvana and Alice in Chains. The fusion might seem strange—spiritual folk, grunge, and hardcore—but poolblood expertly pulls together their sound on their debut album mole.
Mole starts with a trio of tracks that have an ethereal quality. Opening the album is “<3,” a sweet acoustic song that showcases poolblood’s vocal style. This song bleeds into the introspective “wfy,” which describes a day in Toronto as a nostalgic and heartbroken poolblood sings over an increasingly orchestral arrangement. “Shabby” goes through the motions of longing for unrequited love; snippets of a voicemail peppered throughout the song make for a devastating but beautiful listen. Mole has a lot of surprising elements that can slip through the cracks on the first listen: flourishes of jazz drums and saxophones; shoegaze-like distortion; sampled voices; and an old-school, ’90s alt-rock sound that’s not easy to replicate. The production is impeccable, with fellow Toronto psych rocker Louie Short and acclaimed pop artist Shamir Bailey among those sharing production and collaboration credits along with the singer. With mole, poolblood has created an intimate, solid debut where connectivity, introspection, and change challenges us to be more open to our own solitude.