Dysphoria EP Review by guest writer, Stevie Deale

It’s always a nice experience to see a friend come into their own and flourish. That’s what Dysphoria is for iiwaa. This EP is a revelation of the last year and a half of their life, muddling through gender dysphoria, eating disorders, and toxic relationships and coming out the other side, free and full at last. 

Jay and I first met as undergrads in Flagstaff eight years ago and it’s been remarkable to watch them grow into a new space that feels the most them and the most true. “I have done the most in the past wanting to try and find my sound,” Jay told me over text after I’d listened to the EP (and screamed at how amazing it is). This EP is the opposite of that statement, everything about it feels as natural as breathing. It’s an account of digging to find yourself and finding that you love who you’ve become and who you’ve always been. 

With simple, yet poignant, lyrics like, “lately I don’t feel right” and “guess I’m not a boy am I,” the weight of its importance flows over you, while the harmonies and cadence of the music leaves you in a familiar place. Listening to iiwaa makes you feel like you're not alone and connects you to a community. The ability to connect so deeply with listeners and create that sense of community is something that Jay excels at with iiwaa. 

But it hasn’t been an easy road, which is clear in their music. Lyrics like “am I losing my life, or finding it” and “everything you say reminds me I’m empty,” clearly showcase the struggle that has taken place in order to put this album into the world. When we spoke over the phone Jay mentioned wanting to put everything about the last year and a half into these few songs, as a way to release it and share everything. While the story is everything we want to hear, it’s perfect that this EP is just pieces. It’s a reminder to slow down, look back, and realize just how far you’ve come. 

The hints of SZA and Sampha in the music, not to mention Billie Eilish and hints of the previous iterations that Jay has put out, make this EP especially unique. Texturally rich and full of life, it’s the kind of album you want to listen to when you’re three drinks in and surrounded by friends, either at a chill dinner party or bopping at the club. The experimentation with beats, while retaining an innocent nature of acoustic guitars and ukulele, make a juxtaposition that highlights the content of the lyrics beautifully. 

This album is a lesson in confidence, in finding the strength “to risk things and invest in my dreams. To believe I have a message to share and so out of that place comes this art and that feels powerful and I feel brave too,” they told me during one of our text conversations. Finding a sound and believing in your creative dreams takes a lot of work and it’s clear that Dysphoria is a production of that work. We can’t wait to hear more. 

Listen to the album here :

-Stevie Deale

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