Last week, Lexi Vega shared Always In Motion, her debut album as Mini Trees. The release is a stunning contradiction – though initially borne from disillusionment, pain, and tragedy, tonally it is anchored with warmth, patience, and understanding, its narratives mainly about the inevitability of passing time and the formulation of identity. And yet despite its soft, honeyed tone, it does not attempt to sugarcoat nor lessen the actuality of any of these painful truths; ultimately, it is its realist outlook, its utter honesty, its complete and total resilience in spite of, that solidifies Always In Motion as one of the most genuine and beautiful albums of 2021.
As the daughter of a Cuban-born father and a Japanese-American mother, the concept of identity is a paramount theme within Vega’s music. Never quite fitting in with the predominantly white communities in suburban southern California where she grew up, and with few outside her family understanding the unique pain caused by such isolation, the feelings of disillusionment set in at an early age – this was made even more complicated after her father, a professional drummer himself, took his own life when she was only five years old. “Differently,” one of the album’s most earnest and heartbreaking tracks, touches on her relationship with her sister, the only other person in the world who shares her experience. And yet, while the album is, in part, a medium in which to sufficiently process these traumas, at the same time it acts as a physical reminder that life still manages to move forward, for better or worse. Though primarily rooted deeply in reality, Vega still makes clear that there’s also room for interpretation and healing, and that hope, though inherently fragile in nature, is still something worth holding onto:
“When you’re in the midst of something painful you long to get to the other side of it. You want to be free from that. Faith can mean that even though life is long and painful, there is hope at the end of it all. I like the idea of there being something better than this on the other side. That possibility acknowledges that while people go through periods of intense anxiety and dread, they make it through.”
Opener “Moments In Between” speaks to these anxieties, with several hard-to-answer questions peppered throughout the narrative: “Can you tell me what more are we waiting for?,” “Is it all a myth?,” “How long are all the moments in between?” She wants to daydream, to project into more favorable realities, but her physical surroundings call her back. “Carrying On” touches on similar themes and asks similar questions (“Is it over like that?,” “Was it all a wash?,” “Are we just fooling ourselves?”), swapping out the hazy, atmospheric instrumentals with something far more cathartic; Vega scoffs at the notion to not focus on the past – it hangs around like a ghost. “It haunts me that I can’t seem to be carrying on,” she admits, with later track “Numb” commenting on emotional fatigue as well as the function of apathy as a tool to cope. And yet, ironically the track also speaks to what we do outside of apathy; nestled inside a guitar-heavy expanse, she explains “we re-erase our memory of young mistakes/ We rearrange our time and place to make amends,” and, most importantly, always “long to be something.” Healing and progress is always present, no matter how muted.
“Otherwise,” written about a close friend who lost their mother to cancer, is the most elegiac of these songs, not only for her friend but for Vega herself, who couldn’t help but feel a similar sense of confusion and sadness about her own loss while writing it. Floating above a glittering melody interwoven with stark guitar collisions akin to a reverberating heartbeat, Vega concludes that “some things don’t have their answers/ So I don’t ask those kinds of questions anymore.”
“I liked the idea of ending on an unresolved note. It emphasizes that there’s no certainty until we reach the end. That’s the only truth that seems reliable. You can’t ever know what’s going to happen until you get there. And that doesn’t have to conjure up feelings of dread. Over the course of the album I teeter-totter between having questions and wanting answers, but the resolution is to be okay with not knowing.”
These days, I’m also starting to move away from expecting happy endings from everything (not that I ever did in the first place, with my life-long realist attitude) – mainly because I know that life doesn’t work that way, not really. These past two years have proven, if anything, that simply surviving, healing, growing, can be revolutionary things – but they’re also slow, ongoing processes that have no foreseeable apex. In that sense, I’m grateful for Mini Trees, who reminds listeners that there’s a sense of peace that comes with the simple passing of time, the perpetual reminder that you’re alive, and everything is still, more or less, okay. It’s the most cliche of sayings, I know, but it really is true that time heals just about anything – you’re always closer to contentment than you believe, whatever it is contentment may mean.
Always In Motion is out now via Run For Cover Records.
photo by Danielle Parsons