Despite often dealing with well-trodden subjects in popular music, Madi Diaz seems to carve her own path simply by shedding light on the strange nuances others would leave untouched. She employs her knack for melody while allowing her honest perspective to seep through in all its messy contradictions, a bare-bones approach forced – as all of us going about life – to confront complexity. Though she has been releasing music since 2007, around the time she dropped out of Berklee, she broke through with 2021’s History of a Feeling, which, as the album title suggests, contended with age-old and familial narratives around emotions without underselling their sheer intensity; it was, after all, a record about the dissolution of a long-term relationship. Following its success, Diaz toured with the likes of Waxahatchee, Angel Olsen, and Harry Styles (whose touring band she briefly joined), and you’d think she’d reach for something more uniformly hopeful on her next release. In writing about falling in love, however, Diaz taps into the same tangled emotional language we collectively reserve for our negative experiences.
Diaz’s first instinct is to lay it all out on the table – a necessary and deeply vulnerable act, but also a leap of faith she realizes must be mutual. “Do you think this could ruin your life?/ ‘Cause I can see it ruining mine,” she admits on opener ‘Same Risk’, slowly enveloped by supple bass and drums that promptly make way for a soaring declaration: “I’m standing here naked/ Saying you can have it all.” Then she begins questioning – what it means to have it all (‘Everything Almost’, ‘KFM’), but also how much of her own self she’s really willing to show. On ‘Get to Know Me’, she offers a personal introduction by way of listing out insecurities both buried inside and seemingly carried over from past relationships (“Did you get to my negativity yet?/ When my glass is never half full/ Have you noticed me jealous / My eyes when I’m rebellious?”). But for all her openness – and despite the initial accusation that she doesn’t “believe a word that’s coming out of your pretty mouth” – she dedicates ‘Hurting You’, a spare piano ballad, to the ways real emotion can make her, too, feel like an actor, hiding the deepest pain.
“It did feel like the reason that the hurt exists in the first place is because there’s a deep love and there’s a deep caring, and the reason that I hate somebody so much is because I really care a lot about them and I love them,” Diaz said in our 2021 interview, speaking about the breakup that inspired her last album. Hurt is inherently part of attachment, whether looming early as a potential threat or arriving as a totalizing force towards the end. “When I love you I hate you the most,” she sings on ‘For Months Now’, one of a pair of songs on the back half of the album about prolonged leaving – that stage in a relationship where the simplest feelings, whether shared or kept from one another, can muddle and contradict themselves. But that doesn’t take away from their truth, and Diaz finds different ways to honour it. ‘Don’t Do Me Good’, a stunning duet with Kacy Musgraves, avoids dramatic confrontation in favour of the comfort of confiding in a friend who surely has found herself in a similar situation, lending surprising warmth to a song about struggling to imagine a version of yourself without the darkness, the sleepless nights, the dwindling faith – put simply, staying despite.
But surprise is what makes Weird Faith uniquely resonant – Diaz not only excels at writing songs that belie their straightforward presentation, but seems compelled to find an interesting angle or aside like it’s the thing that makes a good song worth saving. On ‘God Person’, while tracing her relationship with spirituality, she suddenly pivots to a conversation with her mom about her dad, then ties it back to the profound. She goes above and beyond sonically too, riding the song out with surging vocals that seem to take cue from Ethel Cain. Like her anger, she keeps the grit of her guitar pared-back on ‘Girlfriend’, which turns constantly encountering your partner’s ex into a weird yet potent exercise in empathy. Though you can hear her basically explain what the phrase Weird Faith means on the title track, what it really sounds like is the swelling, cathartic breakdown of ‘Kiss the Wall’. “Is it hard to love me?/ ‘Cause I exist intensely/ And my messages don’t get through?” Diaz wonders on the final track, ‘Obsessive Thoughts’. As far as her music goes, though, its intensity is what makes them cut through – and Weird Faith is an affirmation that love may not come easy, but it’s going to take a lot more than doubt, friction, or history to stop you believing in it.