Chicago based producer and singer/songwriter Melissa Harris is carving out a niche all her own under the moniker Born Days and her pending sophomore EP release Where We Live will further define her unique standing in the modern indie scene. The follow up to 2017’s self-produced effort Be True illustrates the exponential growth her art has experienced since her debut – the result of additional life experience, further refining her craft, and touring with an eclectic mix of performers like George Clanton and Negative Gemini, among others/ She has an individualistic songwriting point of view distinguishing her from contemporaries and peers alike and a rare intelligence shapes her work as well. Her art wrestles with weighty themes and concepts without ever slipping into pretentiousness and isn’t afraid of incorporating a variety of influences into its musical DNA.

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Elements of industrial, techno, and house are present throughout the song “Is This Reality?” It is the first single from the release and has ambitious aims. She deserves kudos for pushing an artistic agenda free from the standard clichés and tropes of typical pop song fare – the new single explores what this life means to her and asks how much control she exerts over the way it unfolds. The introspective quality of such questions finds firm footing in a dramatic musical arrangement favoring atmosphere and feeling over big screen musical moments – there is nothing overstated here. Instead, Born Days further strengthens her standing as a subtle and thoughtful composer and songwriter rather than a performer intent on pandering to audience expectations.

“Is This Reality?” accomplishes much thanks to Harris centering on connecting with listeners in a direct manner. There are no gimmicks or shortcuts. She achieves a warm and inviting sound despite the prevalence of electronic instrumentation defining the track though the drums possess the same snap and feel we’d expect from a “live” performer rather than a machine or computer program. Translating this song to live performance should be easy and it is doubtful the track would lose anything in translation. It has the right length for live performance as well – Harris does not waste listener’s time with sideshows or self indulgent excursions. She knows what she wants to say and says it well.

Her vocals will be a highlight for many. She possesses a sensitive voice rife with emotion and feeling, but it likewise possesses enough muscle to compel listener’s attention and hold its own with the musical arrangement. The vocal phrasing contrasts well against the brisk pace set by the song’s percussion and she knows when to apply greater force to individual lines and when to back off. Despite her limited experience as a recording artist, Harris handles her vocal duties like a seasoned professional and, above all else, a focused performing artist. It is the crowning touch on one of the more evocative electronic singles in recent memory. “Is This Reality?” could be a hamfisted listening experience in the hands of a lesser performer, but there is nothing overwrought about how Born Days treats this material. This track is highly recommended.

Michael Rand

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