Maple Glider, the moniker of Melbourne native Tori Zietsch, entered the year nearly an unknown. Zietsch (pronounced, as per her Bandcamp, “Peach with a Z”) was a new artist with a small fanbase, releasing a debut album on a monstrously packed music release date. On June 25, albums dropped from artists like Tyler, the Creator, Lucy Dacus, Faye Webster, Modest Mouse and Squirrel Flower, a group of indie heavyweights that could seem, upon first glance, impossible to compete with. Despite this, the immaculate lyricism and stunning production of Maple Glider’s “To Enjoy Is the Only Thing” stood out as the best of the day’s releases.
I discovered Maple Glider in September 2020 through a Bob Boilen curated playlist littered with underground gems. Maple Glider’s first single for the album release, “As Tradition,” attracted attention both lyrically and sonically, notably with its chorus: “Come to me pretty, pull back my limbs / It’s the oldest tradition known to my skin.” An exploration of the connection between religious and romantic love as well as the destructive nature both can have when suppressing those who partake in them, “As Tradition” played on repeat in my car and room through the winter as a poignant track.
When “Good Thing,” Maple Glider’s second single, was released, my sister and I wondered if she would be an indie one-hit-wonder for us. But “Good Thing” turned out to be a breakup banger, culminating with the perfectly delivered lines, “Because I’d rather kill a good thing / Than wait for it to die.” By the release of her third single, the only emotion I felt when toggling to the Spotify link through my email was unbridled excitement.
The singles leading up to the release of “To Enjoy Is the Only Thing” centered around a breakup Maple Glider experienced during the creation of the album, and tracks including “As Tradition,” “Good Thing,” “Swimming,” “Baby Tiger” and “Be Mean, It’s Kinder Than Crying” center the album around the associated feelings.
With great lyrical prowess, Maple Glider steps softly through a series of struggles that lead up to the demise of her relationship and expresses both her dissatisfaction with and mourning over the loss of a connection once felt so strongly. On “Swimming,” her juxtaposition of the lines “You pressed your hands against the darkest spaces of my skin / Tell me my body has been so beautifully lived in” and “Watching the surfers on the Birling Gap / A few times I nearly packed up my bags / You said baby please don’t leave / Stay with me” contrasts a gnawing sense of languishing in a bad relationship with the continuing existence of sweet moments in her faltering romance.
Although the leadup to “To Enjoy Is the Only Thing” traced the story of a broken relationship, the album itself is split between songs documenting familial trauma and heartbreak. On the devastating standout tracks “View From This Side” and “Mama It’s Christmas,” respectively, Maple Glider documents her mother’s struggle with an eating disorder and peers into a microcosmic moment of her brother vanishing from their home while struggling with addiction and religious trauma.
Her talent for letting a song simmer lyrically until she lets loose a crushingly apt and — in the best way possible — upsetting line or verse is seen perfectly in these songs, as she writes: “You said, you had an eating disorder / It sparred with your love for your daughter / You wanted to be an example / You made your body a temple.” The artist’s ability to shine light upon experiences with trauma, love, religion and family over the course of four lines is astonishing, and the grace with which she tells this story, as well as others, is admirable.
In a manner almost reminiscent of disgraced but nonetheless talented artist Sun Kil Moon, Maple Glider places herself within stories while still seeming to tell them from an empathetic outside perspective. Her expertise in dictating the story of a failed relationship, a broken family, a lonely vacation abroad and a negative religious experience while crafting an album that is heartbroken but rarely accusatory is so much of what makes “To Enjoy Is the Only Thing” appealing.
When one experiences trauma, there is a knee-jerk reaction to place blame. Maple Glider explores reasons for the negative outcomes she experiences, but rather than railing against ex-lovers, siblings, mothers or preachers, she ties her songs together with a tenderness that prevails even through the harshest of situations.
Midway through “Mama It’s Christmas,” she sings to her brother: “But I should have reached through the phone / Slapped you hard on the cheek / So that you could know pain like I do when you leave.” She directly confronts him for his wayward tendencies, but by the end of the song she repeats an altered version of the chorus, singing: “Oh it’s Christmas time again / Where are you brother / Where are you my friend / Mama it’s Christmas time again / Doesn’t he know I’ve got all my love to wrap him in?” In the end, all animosity is directly tied to her will to love, and when obstructions to this love appear, her ability to reckon with them through song produces immaculate and beautiful music.
However, there are a few minor hiccups throughout “To Enjoy Is the Only Thing” that at times can break the reverie of the songs themselves. Some of the transitions between songs feel slightly clunky, causing the album to feel more like a collection of individual portraits than a unified whole. But when listening on vinyl or with the intention of singling out each individual song, this drawback fades from the listener’s consciousness. The quality of soundscapes on the album never fails to enchant and stands out even further on vinyl, as a listener is given the opportunity to consider each minor production decision, from the inclusion of a tambourine pulse to the space Maple Glider’s voice is given to breathe on each track.
Overall, “To Enjoy Is the Only Thing” stands out not only as a debut record but also as an album that can be compared to any recent or past releases favorably. Maple Glider’s stunning lyrics, beautiful soundscapes and frank simplicity produce a work of art that captivates for its 36-minute duration. It is well worth a listen from any lover of up-and-coming indie artist.