Dubbed “punk’s greatest hidden treasure” (Stereogum), Mal Blum writes cleverly crafted songs that are immediate, self-effacing, and viscerally relatable. Their latest project, Pity Boy, is an album that examines the patterns that recur over the course of our lives and what happens when we try (and often fail) to break them. Over the course of twelve tracks, Blum tells a story about: bad habits, self-sabotage, setting boundaries, ignoring those boundaries for familiar, comfortable mistreatment, and crawling on their knees through the dirt toward a begrudging optimism. They hope someone will see them as they are, will hear them, will listen. They’re doing the grueling work of becoming, and documenting it in a rock record that nestles somewhere between indie, punk, and pop.
Though the subject matter gets heavy, Blum’s wry, self-aware sense of humor weaves its way throughout the record. Pity Boy’s pithy title was “just a funny pun I thought of, like, a sad pretty boy,” Blum explains. It’s a worthy expansion on 2015’s You Look A Lot Like Me ( Blum’s fourth album, but their label debut). Since then, Blum has become one of Don Giovanni’s most popular artists, whether you’re counting streams, bodies at concerts, or pieces of plastic sold. They’ve toured relentlessly, both solo and with a band, most notably this year traveling in support of Lucy Dacus as well as the live show of popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale.
It’s impactful to listen to these songs through a transgender lens – and some of the songs do touch on Blum’s experience coming out as transgender (“Things Still Left to Say” and “See Me,” respectively) – but truthfully, all these songs offer crashes of loneliness and sparks of euphoric recognition that will feel familiar to many surviving in 2019 and beyond.