Keshi (Casey Luong) is a Houston-based producer, singer and songwriter in the alternative music scene. He started his career by uploading lo-fi hip-hop tracks to SoundCloud, and eventually signed to Island Records. His musical style draws inspiration from John Mayer and Tomppabeats. By many, keshi has been dubbed a “lo-fi hip-hop producer,” however he claims that this would do the title a disservice.
Keshi’s last EP, “skeletons,” received over 70 million streams and he performed a sold-out tour in 2019. Keshi is no stranger to wearing his heart on his sleeve, as his previous releases explore sadness, heartache and loneliness accompanied by mournful vocals and a chill beat. While these themes are often critiqued as being cliché, keshi produces a fresh ability to capture raw emotion in his tracks. His newest release, “bandaids,” is a soft-spoken love letter to moving on.
The EP starts with the snazzy acoustic guitar and soft harmonizing voices of “less of you.” Keshi’s voice alternates between distorted and gentle, accompanied by a trap beat. Heavier electronic sounds are introduced, but the song itself is focused on vocals and guitar. The song maintains a calm aura; however, the track is far from peaceful. Keshi sings, “I’m terrified” and “When you leave me, I’m in pieces, maybe it’s better if we cut it loose.” He examines why a relationship might fail; the track alludes to a relationship that has nearly reached its end and is the beginning of a new journey —“less of you” is the EP’s first chapter in a story about healing.
The second track, “alright,” is about the breakup. It begins slowly, gently easing the listener into smooth vocals that repeat, “said I’m alright.” The song builds momentum throughout, quietly adding more beats and synths until the end of the track approaches and the song is overwhelmed with subtle piano, echoing voices and strings.
“Alright” uses metaphors to portray the feeling of quiet hope felt right after the fresh end of a relationship: “And if I was to blame, I swear that I’ll pick up the pieces. You say that you don’t wanna keep ‘em, I’ll leave one behind just in case.” While the lyrical content is relatively simple, it is that simplicity and vulnerability on the track that perfectly captures the emotion of fleeting hope.
“Blue” is a sincere telling of change. The song starts with a gentle acoustic guitar — a sound that is paramount and present throughout the EP. The melody moves smoothly throughout the track, until it’s slowed down for the peak of the song as keshi sings: “Tear me to pieces, I won’t even feel it. You’re not what I’m needing, move on with the seasons.” Perhaps it’s the second phase of healing from a failed relationship and an acknowledgement of the need to move forward.
However, the song is also a call to lost friendships. Keshi noted that “blue” is “about missing friends” and explores how people grow apart as they become older. The lyrics are subtle, allowing for both interpretations to live simultaneously. Placed in the middle of the EP, the song drives forward the theme of acceptance and further explores the changing nature of relationships.
“Right here” begins with soft guitar strums and coos that consider an old connection. The track meshes trap with acoustic, as electronics slowly build behind keshi’s hums and “hmms.” Keshi expresses acceptance of the end of a relationship, but assures his old lover that he’ll still be there for them: “No, I do not want the past, but if you are ever in need, and God has you down on your knees and you do not know who to be, then go on and come home to me.”
The song has no trace of bitter regret, only the true motivation to move forward and pure concern for whom the song is addressed to. Keshi is sincere when he sings, “I know we ended on the wrong terms but I said we’re past it.” The song tells a story of a rarity in breakups: the ability to stay friends — without the intent of getting back together.
The finale of the EP, “bandaids,” is somber and stripped down as soft piano chords accompany an acoustic guitar. The song ends keshi’s telling of healing as he admits “my heart is broken down to my core” and “bandaids are no good for heartache.” He explores emotions of defeat and melancholy.
It’s almost like a step back in comparison to previous tracks, but perhaps this is more genuine and more realistic. The last song acknowledges that when trying to move on, there might be setbacks and it’s necessary to fully embrace them to fully process our emotions. “Bandaids” ends with choiring hymns, echoes and rolling piano chords for an unresolved but honest conclusion to the record.
Keshi’s new release is moody and melodramatic, but in all the right ways. He is sincere and open in his lyrics, emotional and vulnerable in his sound. His tracks are simple and unobscured, allowing listeners to appreciate the soft silence of sadness. Keshi has put forth an EP that traces the experiences of lost relationships and healing from them. However, he does not do so by merely telling his listeners to “stay positive,” indulge in themselves or to sit back and let time heal them. Instead, his message recognizes that sometimes we need to waver in our sadness and the “bandaids” EP provides the perfect space to do so.
Keshi’s honesty is a necessary part of appreciating the record as he gives listeners a sense of relatability in a part of our lives we might not otherwise embrace. “Bandaids” is a heartbreaking but genuine portrayal of the human experience. Following his release, keshi stated that “the bandaids record is about vulnerability but also about moving forward, and I hope that in some way it can be your friend in this strange time. It has some of my favorite songs I’ve ever written yet, and I’m so happy to share it with you.”