Diamond Club, the singles label that Norwegian label Brilliance runs, is having one mother of a hot streak. We’ve recently reported on Diamond Club’s stunners by Company Ink and Intertwine, and now, we’re stoked on the debut single by Bergen-based singer and songwriter MAIH. It wouldn’t be appropriate to label “Habits” as the work of a singer-songwriter, but it is clearly the work of one person who has both a voice that can carry whole oceans and songwriting talent that, in time, might just see her placed in as high and wide regard as the many other Nordic artists who have dramatically propelled synthpop forward these past many years.
On “Habits,” MAIH, real name, Martine Håland, asks broad questions about the nature and meaning of life. She tackles subject matter that’s pretty grand for an artist’s first song with grace and poise, filling lyrics such as “It all comes back again/shivers down my spine/as I go back to old habits” with meaning beyond their simple words. With these specific lyrics, which come from the chorus, she both describes falling back into an established routine and asks: Why do we do this? If we only have one life, why are we constantly repeating ourselves?
It’s the lyric “shivers down my spine” that most strongly indicate her discomfort with settling back into the behaviors and actions she knows best. Although this detail is a subtle one, it’s made incredibly astute by how lightweight but pointed the music under MAIH’s voice is. She pours wispy, digital arpeggios and cresting, lucid waves of synths over pulses of synthetic bass to create a mobile but introspective sonic backdrop for her gorgeous, blissful singing, which is as pristine and clear as it is whopping. During her final chorus, she adds another layer of percussion, this time heftier than anything she’s previously incorporated into the song, allowing her to end “Habits” on a note as high as she must feel now that she’s worked through her frustrations with life’s routines.