Razor Tongue Media

Myles Bullen Lays It All Out On Powerful "Healing Hurts"

Myles Bullen walks alongside a riverbed with his head down and his hands holding a comb.

If you take the head bending lyrical acrobatics of Milo or Aesop Rock and mix them with slightly off-kilter, strained, emotional delivery of Hobo Johnson you have Myles Bullen. The Portland, ME Rapper/Art Poet closed 2020 by releasing his third and most vulnerable album to date. On Healing Hurts, Bullen wears their addiction, recovery, depression, sexuality, and trauma on their sleeve. This collection of seven songs gives the listener the feeling that they’re reading entries from Bullen’s Diary. The album artwork, a painting by Abbeth Russell, is layered, surreal, and gets more depressing the longer you take it in.

The album opens with the project’s bounciest song, “Swallowing Bruises.” The song opens with some strummed ukulele chords, and voices saying things one might expect to hear at their first therapy session, “I’m so glad you’re finally opening up,” and “We’re really glad that you’re here,” etc. Once the beat comes in, Bullen delivers a flow that alternates between being softly melodic to moments with more aggression. This effectively conveys the rollercoaster of emotional ups and downs.

“Suitcase of Sexuality” is the sort of song I think only an artist like Myles Bullen could have created. It’s no secret that mainstream hip-hop has some pretty deep-rooted homophobia issues. We’re starting to see this tide change with openly gay artists such as Kevin Abstract and Lil Nas X. But even these artists don’t discuss sexuality with the same depth that Bullen does on this track. Furthermore, with “Suitcase of Sexuality,” Myles is able to put his undeniable ability to go after a beat on full display.

The beat in “Miss You Daily” is comprised of some bare ukulele chords, a simple baseline, and beatboxing rather than a drum sample. The second half of the track marks a turn into a more experimental sonic pallet. This section features a spoken-word monologue, from what sounds like a therapy session. In this monologue, Bullen breaks the songs fourth wall saying:

“My friend Berry told me he once wrote a piece that he never wanted to end because he never wanted the person he wrote that piece about to ever end. And I feel that now, I don’t ever want this song to stop. Because that might mean I get closure somewhat. The thing about when someone you love dies is that you never get closure, it never ends until, until you do. So I guess that’s the scariest part, is having to live with loss. And then that way, you can never be gone.”

The track’s roughness around the edges compounds the emotion of rawness and vulnerability that lyrics had provided. Although the lo-fi charm of the track sometimes ends up being more distracting than endearing, the song is still a very heartfelt goodbye to a dear friend.

The album closes with what seems to be a voice memo of Bullen playing the ukulele and serves as a reprise of the album’s opening song.
Everyone had to deal with a very trying year, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and existentially. Hearing Bullen work through the turmoil that 2020 has brought upon us all along with his own personal hardships is sure to remind the listener that we are not alone.

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