There is nothing quite like being young and in love. Young love is a rollercoaster of newfound euphoria, and all-consuming anxiety and excitement and dread, and so on and so forth — all of it sparkling and new, like every old rom-com but better, and felt deep in the pit of the stomach. For some of us, looking back on our first forays into romance brings about embarrassment, dismissiveness, even pain.
But for New York-based singer-songwriter Raveena, these intense and tumultuous moments deserve to be honored. Her latest EP, ‘Moonstone,’ is a “bittersweet goodbye to my youth and first loves,” the 27-year-old tweeted. The four-track record, released Feb. 7, reads like the diary pages of a wide-eyed twentysomething, and the genre-blending mix of soulful bass, psychedelic keys, and airy vocals douses every song in dreamlike nostalgia. ‘Moonstone’ is Raveena’s love letter to love — to all the wonderful, joyous moments, but to the confusing and painful ones just the same.
At a time when queer women of color — including Raveena herself, as an Indian-American bisexual woman — are becoming inseparable from narratives of trauma, violence, and political disenfranchisement, Raveena’s gentle, dreamy tracks create space for these inherently politicized bodies to simply be. To revel in the simple beauty of falling in and out of love — and nothing more.
The EP is a subtle departure from her debut album, ‘Lucid,’ which was released to high praise last September and elevated the young artist to newcomer-to-watch status in the R&B world. In ‘Moonstone,’ Raveena’s soul and R&B influences — though still present in basslines and drumbeats — are less pronounced, and her production leans more heavily on inspiration from old-school indie rock and experimental electronic pop. The result is a glimmering dreamscape that feels ethereal and timeless, yet also firmly contemporary.
The opening track, “Headaches,” takes us through the uncertain whirlwind of tenderness and passion that makes new romance feel so dizzying — or, as the song’s title calls it, headache-inducing. The track’s laidback guitar and minimal, jazzy drums allow Raveena’s silky vocals to take the focus. It’s a soft, intimate song with an honesty that seems to transport us to the singer’s bedroom, as she murmurs her confusion to her new lover: “Don’t play with my heart / I’m tryna be smart, but / I can’t control this.”
Just as the guitar begins to fade out, the song picks up again — this time faster, with a more pronounced drumbeat. After the ambling uncertainty of the track’s first half, Raveena plunges headfirst into the exhilarating rush of the honeymoon phase, singing sweetly, “There’s no sunset without you.” It’s here that the singer’s indie rock influence makes itself clear.
If “Headaches” follows the beginning of a new relationship, “Close 2 U” is located toward the end of one. The switch to acoustic guitar makes the song all the more bittersweet as Raveena sings, “I haven’t kissed you enough / This is my last chance.” Even though the romance in this track appears doomed to fail, the glittering piano and buttery vocals soften the desperate situation. Here, Raveena bids a warm farewell to a sunsetting romance and finds beauty in resolution — even if resolution means separation.
“Heartbeats,” in contrast, is a celebration of short-lived connections and the possibilities they hold. Raveena’s voice here takes on a flirtatious breathiness not present in the other tracks. Combine that with the song’s soulful, sensual bass line, and we are seemingly transported to a steamy dance floor, where Raveena and her one-time partner are “Dancing under the blue lights so slow.” It’s an ode to the playful flings that might hold the potential for something greater — “If you wanna love me, let’s go,” Raveena coos — but are beautiful and satisfying in their own right as fleeting moments of closeness.
‘Moonstone’ ends with “Starflower,” a tender, poetic lullaby with the EP’s most simple instrumentation: arpeggiated chords on a harp-like string, with a few touches of Raveena’s signature dreamy keys. This track diverges from the rest of the EP as it doesn’t follow a particular relationship — rather, it seems Raveena is reminding herself and her listeners to “let go of the weight of the world” that one might carry for their romantic partner. The song’s celestial imagery (“See your reflection in the Milky Way / Know that this bed of stars will keep you safe”) provide comfort and peace the same way watching a quiet night sky might.
It’s a fitting end to a record that revolves so heavily around one’s relationships to other people, and it’s certainly a nod to Raveena’s previous releases, which focus on self-love and healing. The message to her listeners, many of them young women, is clear: love loudly and tenderly and deeply, but do not lose yourself in love.
Though Raveena’s vocals and production are mesmerizing as always, several songs in ‘Moonstone’ — particularly “Close 2 U” and “Heartbeats” — suffer slightly from simplistic lyrics. Raveena shows her full songwriting capability in “Starflower,” which reads almost like poetry. As the up-and-coming artist continues to evolve, it will be exciting to see her lyricism grow stronger and more consistent.
Altogether, ‘Moonstone’ is a gorgeous listen, as short-and-sweet as the romances Raveena so fondly looks back upon. And everyone — including queer women of color — deserves the space for sweet reminiscence.