"It's a song about heartbreak and knowing when a relationship has come to an end. Even though we don't want it to be true, sometimes we outgrow people and it's okay. It f*cking hurts, but it's okay."
So says Olivia Castriota about her latest musical offering, Kills Me. Earlier this year she dropped the bouncy, easy-to-adore, Weekend Lover, a purple-tinged, quirky pop tune that set toes a-tapping and turned heads towards this rising NYC talent. Now, with winter coming in sharply, we finally get to bear witness to that next phase. Radically different in almost every way from its upbeat older sibling, Kills Me is an incandescent emotional beast of a song that cuts close to home for anyone who has ever had a broken heart.
Almost whispering tones intrude over dusty synths. These vocals intensify as a sharp snare creeps in to the mix, forcing the song to charge quickly towards the titular chorus. The same chorus rings out like an offering up to a deistic figure that may or may not be listening. The song details the experience of heartbreak, reading as if part journal entry, part monologue. The choruses intensify, Castriota's voice gets more and more intense, more pained, even as her own backup vocals seem to call out to her in soothing chorus. Our singer appears to be wrestling with the rawness of what she is feeling, whilst at the same time trying to calm herself. As if two voices that wrote his song are fighting for balance. One immediate and brutal, one retrospective and reasoned. A symphony in time, the same person in two modes operating in opposition to one another, yet finding literal and figurative harmony in this burning musical seance.
Castriota's work here is, obviously, intensely personal. Speaking about the inception of the song she recants the story of a breakup. "The first draft of this song was a journal entry that I wrote the day [I] finally ended it [with someone]. We woke up at 5:00AM and said a final cold goodbye, I packed a weekend bag and took a Greyhound bus out of town," she says of the painful experience, "Everything hurt, and the only thing I could think to do was write it down. It was so intense that I could barely read it afterwards. Three years later, I finally felt strong enough to revisit those feelings. As I reread the words from my past self, and felt the familiar pain all over again, I knew it was time to put it to music."
Therein lies why this song resonates so strongly. Castriota has dug for the vein here, and found it, distilling liquid sorrow in to a heaven that burns so good. It's music's time honored tradition, the oldest trick in the book, and yet it is no trick… it simply is. Castriota has always performed and sung well, but in this song we see her going for broke with her songwriting, and damn it all if it's impossible not to be drawn in to her maelstrom here. "Write the truest sentence you know" was Hemingway's idiom. It's hard to get truer than a journal entry, and it's hard to turn that in to music better than Olivia Castriota has done here. Bravo.
Thomas Burns Scully is a Popdust contributor, and also an award-winning actor, playwright, and musician. In his spare time he writes and designs escape rooms. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.