To hear Linying talk about her new EP House Mouse, the four-song collection is either an anxious statement about never quite feeling at home in the world or a very literal concession to a ruthless housing market. Either way, the brief recording ping-pongs back and forth between melancholy dream-pop sighs and more purely upbeat passages that find a sense of comfort in the here-and-now—uncovering happiness within the rubble of a failed relationship, as the delirious final track implies.
These references to houses—literal or otherwise—feel especially apt as Linying describes the recording process at co-producer Jon Graber’s studio as feeling “like walking daily into a haunted mansion full of every instrument imaginable.” Contrasting with the urge to make a home for oneself is the EP’s unique, if not just a bit eerie, set of instruments that each seem to tell their own story like the decades-old furnishings of a grandparent’s house. “Porcupine” in particular takes some interesting turns (including a brief tack piano bridge and a discarded-telephone-as-microphone), yet the instrumental never quite derails the personal lyricism.
With the record out today, Linying took us deeper into the project with a track-by-track breakdown, each song looking toward a future where the tap water tastes normal. Stream the project and read her words below.
I’m standing by the side of a house I’ve spent forever trying to hack my way into, bewilderedly watching someone show up to the front door in their smart clothes, wait for five minutes, and get let in like a long-lost family member. Suddenly the house turns into a home and I’m so baffled, I can’t even imagine what someone like that would need to be made of to be able to manage such a feat.
This song will always remind me of the day I showed up to the studio and [Jon] Graber thrust an accordion into my arms and told me to play, completely disregarding the fact that I’d never touched an accordion in my life prior to this. Other exciting guest appearances include a tack piano, an EBow, and one precariously rusty end of an old telephone masquerading as a microphone. When I say that making this record felt like walking daily into a haunted mansion full of every instrument imaginable, this is the song that comes to mind.
3. “Take Me to Your House”
I’ve always had this funny thought that a sweet and subtle mark of a place truly feeling like home is where the water doesn’t taste weird. I imagine myself holding a key—really feeling it and noticing every detail of the way it sits in my palm—after years and years of building up the fantasy in my mind. In this world, I get to make my mark and plant a flag, lay claim to the land, choose the curtain colors and say with absolute confidence that this is my home now…but it’s obviously an illusion driven by desperation and yearning and anticipation. It’s never come true, and all I’ve done is rattle the grills again and again, yelling, “Tell me what it takes!”
For a song that ignites such simple, instinctive joy within me every time I hit play, there’s an unusual complexity to the specific combination of emotions that gave birth to it. There’s the moral murkiness of the situation, a sheepish willingness to be cavalier about it in light of recent catastrophes…and then there’s the thrill of desiring and being desired, cared for and attended to with such enthusiasm and passion—all of it a cool, soothing balm to the fear and uncertainty I’d had following heartbreak. For something so seemingly temporal, its healing properties have proved to be sustaining, and charged with surprising depth. If it isn’t happiness, it certainly feels like it.