in the mirror, in the night
There was a time—way back in the baking bread/Animal Crossing era of quarantine—when sex was the cabin fever craze. Nothing raises the stakes of eroticism quite like death, and to be at home was, in blunt terms, to be horny. Perhaps no other artist knows this better than Donna Missal, who went from Shania Twain–inspired country-pop to Sega Bodega–produced synth-pop over lockdown for her newest EP in the mirror, in the night. If PinkPantheress found a sweet spot for nostalgia-tinted love letters, consider Missal her lusty foil with a smirking text for every lights-out sexual craving.
What happens, though, when sex itself leaves you torn in its wake? On opener “butterfly,” Missal tries to resist falling into her own desire, her voice grainy and narcotic like a drunk voicemail: “I want you out of my head.” Much of in the mirror is rife with this emotional distancing, as if brazen honesty were too sharp a weapon to wield. “skin,” which feels like a hook-up in media res with its panting beat and watery whisper-reverb, is even more defensive; the physicality of the production makes Missal’s numbness—the line “I don’t know why I do this” is thrown away like a condom wrapper between come-ons—cut through sharply.
in the mirror works best when it gives into the rapture and ruminations of the club and bedroom. The Mura Masa–assisted “insecure” flickers like a heart in arrhythmia against flat, plaintive synths, and the result comes off as a deconstructed Jack Garratt song while Missal excavates each wound: “Baby, when you’re bored you hurt my soul / Just to say you care.” Then comes the whiplash of “(to me) your face is love,” its quicksilver breakbeats not out of place from a Rochelle Jordan outtake. There’s almost a Renaissance sense of romantic indulgence to its divine worship—“I’d give all earthly possessions / To keep you in my heart”—before the bridge comes as a glitchy vortex.
Where the EP ends, however, is somewhere before the aftermath of desire, in the liminal space between knowing what you want and the impact of its arrival. Shadowed in with Imogen Heap–ready vocoder, “sex is good (but have you tried)” moves with a slow, measured pleasure, drifting in the intimacy of the night. Missal’s voice doesn’t go beyond a caress (she sings “I sit on your face” as a lullaby for cam sex), though never has it felt so immediate. Each line brims with sexual pleasure, but also—more importantly—the allure of possibility: “Maybe you could try staying a while.” It’s a way past the wreckage of wanting, the rare sound of a new door opening.