Glossolalia is meaningless speech, disparate syllables linked indiscriminately. It is a much-debated topic theologically: is glossolalia a manifestation of an unknowable, divine presence? Or is what's more commonly known as "speaking in tongues" just plain babble? Maria Minerva is writing her dissertation on glossolalia and vocal music, and the Estonian-born producer's new album, Will Happiness Find Me?, expands on her fascinations with that hazy space between ecstasy and confusion. On prior releases for Not Not Fun and 100% Silk, Minerva exploited this moody flexibility—for every sonic signpost towards the dance floor, there were hallucinatory feints that made you feel like you were doggy-paddling through a swimming pool full of Vaseline. Cloaking herself in fog could make her seem mysteriously detached, but it could also make her sound distrustful of her own voice and its ability as a singular element to entertain. On Will Happiness Find Me?, which Minerva has described as "psychedelic pop music," she throws out the lyrical slyness concealing two major themes of pop—lusty longing and unrequited love—and settles on a vision of desire and romance that's a highly enjoyable, unrelenting bummer.
Will Happiness Find Me? is the least labyrinthine of Minerva's releases, immediate gratification granted via the opening one-two punch of "The Sound" and "Heart Like a Microphone." In the former, rat-a-tat rhythms and a starry synth line clash giddily underneath Minerva as she sighs "your love plays my body and my thoughts and my mind like a record." Like most of her slurried declarations, it's a generically positive image that sours; in this case, the single-mindedness of being in love presented as manipulation. Minerva continues to exploit these grey areas to bleak effect. On "Perpetual Motion Machine," the delay interrupting "I want to hear you scream...my name" shifts blank aggression to a need for support. Similarly, her shrill repetitions of "dreaming of you" and "screaming your name" amid shadowy piano on "Never Give Up" is just creepy.
However, Will Happiness Find Me? can be surprisingly fun, a lovingly detailed headphones record full of stylistic shifts and pricks of excitement. "I Don't Wanna Be Discovered" bursts with giggly harmonium accents and singular brass slowly revealing its shape before the merry-go-round grinds to a halt. Minerva introduces earworm horn stabs over a patchwork of claps in the winking "Sweet Synergy," and the verse from rapper Chase Royal that stumbles through "Fire" is just too incongruous to ignore.
"Mad Girl's Love Song" begins with a girl's voice saying "I was thinking of maybe buying a little Star Wars something," repeated ad nauseum. It's a little maddening, but that doesn't mean I didn't spend far too much time trying to ascertain the line's significance in context. That's one of the unexpected difficulties with Minerva's music: her unflinching willingness to examine the conceptual underpinnings of her work and its intended effects can inflict an unnecessarily rigid narrative surrounding the music. Questions regarding authenticity and emotional truth, lo-fi values mixed with commercial pop affinities...they undoubtedly are present. But despite the occasionally fraught listening experience, Will Happiness Find Me? remains a record that is as fantastically compelling musically as it is thought-provoking.