Keshi’s brilliance leaves listeners wanting “more” in new release “always”


Jiayu Zhan

The “always” record introduces listeners to the enigmatic duality of Casey Luong (keshi).

Hannah Wang, News Editor

With the release of his sixth EP on Oct. 23, Keshi experimentally weaves his signature low-lit reveries with impassioned lyrics and heady composition that allow listeners to break into the inner shell of “keshi” and meet the true Casey Luong. 

Keshi is best known for his dreamlike tracks incorporating elements of lo-fi hip-hop backed with subtle beats, intricate rhythms and soft guitar melodies. His most successful releases, including “Like I Need U” from “The Reaper” EP, and “skeletons” from its namesake EP, begin with soothing guitar that builds up with the addition of some subdued beats and background vocals while divulging sensitive narratives of heartbreak and lust. However, “always” is an amalgamation of the old and new: illustrating similar themes while expressing them through a symphony of experimental arrangement. 

The title track, “always”, is a perfect example of keshi’s goal in reinventing the perspective of his music, by straying away from classic guitar to a beat made of percs and claps that back a simple electronic piano melody. “Always” perpetuates the recurring theme of failed love, unfolding the story of one who never envisions a future with their partner yet naively believes that they’ll leave. Luong’s wordplay is brilliant in asking the innocent question of, “Hey, where’d you go?,” to the end, in which this character realizes his own delusion as he questions, “Was I a fool? To think that we always would.” This contrast of this naivety with the harsh truth illustrates a clear transition from a once blissfully unaware heart to a contrite reality. 

If “always” was composed to create an experimental sound, “more” would be its antithetical in staying stuck to keshi’s roots. “More” shares an unprecedented perspective in keshi’s internal conflict of balancing the hardships of love while hiding behind the facade of contentment as a performing artist. It details the perspective of desperation for a second chance in a failed relationship, in which an artist has been so fixated on their career that their lover leaves after not receiving “more.” This track is told through keshi’s signature heavy guitar and beats but strikes home, serving as a connection from the beginnings of his music career to growing musical success and the predicaments he’s faced along this evolution. 

This contrast of this naivety with the harsh truth illustrates a clear transition from a once blissfully unaware heart to a contrite reality. 

The third track, “drunk”, idealizes the idea of “less is more” as it balances its predecessors by providing a sweeter concept of cohesive elements, incorporating traditional folk, contemporary r&b and rhythmic lo-fi hip-hop that demonstrate keshi’s growing understanding of the fundamentals of music. “drunk” is distinct in its reminiscent aura of both its instrumentation and story, with acoustic guitar, beats and slurred style of soft singing that walk down the past’s unknowns of, “longing[s] for an outcome that you’ll never really know about,” and in finding solace of the path taken.

The softness of “drunk” is a perfect contrast to the fourth track, “talk,” which is undeniably the most experimental song on the record, containing an instrumental of grand piano, electric guitar, a garage-esque beat, vocal editing and cinematic percs that results in an upbeat instrumental that’s confusing to follow both sonically and lyrically. Especially with its message in the craving naivety of denial, the sanguine feeling provided outshines the heavier message of hardship that renders its purpose somewhat ineffectual. 

“B.Y.S.” follows through with the story of “the Reaper” record, illustrating the push and pull of accepting an unreciprocated devotion to a lover while gradually breaking one’s mental capacity to simply stay. The lyrics are lustful and imaginative, the beats stable and quintessential and keshi’s voice authoritative and passionate, while introducing distorted background vocals that attempt to present a desperate perspective towards the struggles of devotion. As raw as the lyrics develop, the musical backdrop creates a shallow quality that isn’t effective in establishing a connection with the diegesis of the story.

“Us” is the perfect summary to this release, intertwining all the experiences shared throughout this album with the recurring notion of just wanting “us.” The nostalgic piano starts off with a minor key that creates vulnerability throughout the whole piece, while delicate, slow-paced coals illustrate an inconsolable feeling of heartbreak that’s more suffocating than any release before. The added buildup of spacey strings and heavy percussion establish a brilliant, yet tragic, sentiment of unrequited love and is full of compromise, regret and battle, connecting with separate stories throughout this EP to summarize the “always” record. “us” is truly a standout in connecting previous releases in a cohesive story, introducing a vulnerable side that demonstrates his enigmatic duality as an artist, experimenting with new arrangements that better express all the emotions behind pieces and showcasing the evolution keshi’s made as an artist along this road filled with depression, regret and endeavor.

“Always” delves into dark feelings and heavy hardship, presenting a harmonious story from “always” to “us” made up of smaller, specific stories of the songs in between that carry sentimental and nostalgic emotions for anyone listening. In its essence, “always” is the perfect release to demonstrate keshi’s newfound and broadened sound while connecting with the notions and styles of previous releases. As keshi fully finds himself in “always,” he solidifies himself in the music industry as not just a singer, but an inventive artist and storyteller while leaving his listeners questioning what “more” is to come to complete this unfinished story of “always”.