What if I told you it’s possible to distill years of therapy and self-actualization into a single album? You might laugh, but I have good news: Maya de Vitry’s sophomore solo album How to Break a Fall does all that and more. While there wasn’t any doubt that de Vitry’s follow-up to Adaptations would shine, it’s rare for any artist to so clearly nail exactly what they were going for on an album.
As the title suggests, How to Break a Fall examines the aftermath of psyche-shattering events. De Vitry outlines her experiences of abuse and recovery — particularly in “Bread for the Circus” and “Open the Door.” These songs ask of both the narrator and the listener how our identities are built, and how they can become foreign to us. If they’re so easily warped, how do we go about the task of rebuilding them with stronger foundations?
“Bread for the Circus” takes a muted approach to this question, with an indie rock beat and relentless interrogative electric guitar line. De Vitry returns to rock and roll with “Open the Door,” a brasher piece with the jaunty liberation of someone who just discovered that, actually, there is no need to give any damns at all.
Even if that’s not an experience you’ve had, de Vitry effortlessly brings How to Break a Fall’s focus from the personal to the political. In “Magazine,” my favorite track on the album, de Vitry tells the fantastical story of a magazine model (re)claiming her humanity. De Vitry’s vocals are smooth and honey sweet, but the band’s inexorable drive suggests that the revolution is nigh, and it doesn’t have to be violent.
In essence, de Vitry uses How to Break a Fall to connect an individual’s experience with the broader violence of patriarchy — that we are less of ourselves, no matter who we are, because we are taught to contain what brings us joy into the prescribed limits of our earthly vessels.
How to Break a Fall has a distinct energy to it: revolution (which de Vitry praises in a track of the same name) doesn’t need to be violent or aggressive. Even in de Vitry’s more rock-oriented pieces, she brings along a sense of patience, wisdom, and determination that suggests long-term thinking, rather than knee-jerk reactions, will take us where we need to go in the end.