On ‘Time Spent Running,’ Mileena bares her soul with funky, R&B, and bedroom pop soundscapes

Although the Toronto-based singer-songwriter's latest EP is short, it's most definitely sweet.
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Madeleine Aitken
Madeleine recently graduated from Tufts University with degrees in English and film & media studies and lives in Cambridge, MA. She likes to write features and reviews and is most interested in music and movies. Contact: maddieaitken22@gmail.com

Just months after putting out a self-titled album in February, Mileena is back with Time Spent Running, a four-track EP released almost four months to the day after Mileena. 

On Time Spent Running, Toronto-based singer-songwriter Mileena returns with her signature funky soundscapes and a willingness to bare her soul lyrically. Their website feels—whether intentionally or not—like a nod to the aesthetics of 2010s Tumblr blogs. The page titles are in quirky fonts, with hearts and stars iconography lining the pages; Mileena posts her casual musings on a host of topics with gifs and images peppered throughout. On her site, Mileena says she “writes and makes music from the comfort of her own bedroom; she enjoys the relaxing atmosphere that exists in home studios and prefers to work with friends in the comfort of their own homes if not her own.” 

That bedroom pop feel absolutely comes through on Time Spent Running as well as older projects. But it’s uniquely set apart from bedroom pop classics like Clairo and girl in red because of the other influences at play: Mileena writes that their music carries hints of the 90s neo-soul R&B and boom-bap they listened to while growing up. 

Her site says she loves to change her mind: “That’s the libra in me.” Their music has enough different influences that you can hear some of that indecisiveness, but not so much that it seems disjointed, more just that they’re experimenting and moving in different directions. All these influences work in harmony with her talented vocals—high and low, angelic and sultry—to create a sound that is uniquely hers. In a word, her music is just pleasant to listen to. 

What Mileena ends up with is a melding between bedroom pop and R&B. She captioned a recent Instagram post “soft gurl, bad bicchhh,” which pretty much sums it up. They shift between these energies both within and between songs, swinging between proclamations of love to sexual promises with ease. This is music you can listen to while you lie in bed and stare at the wall but also begs you to get up and move. For only four songs, Mileena covers an impressive range with this new EP, from gloomy to lively.  

Recording and releasing music independently since 2016, Mileena’s work has certainly changed over the years—there goes that self-proclaimed indecisiveness—and on her site, she wrote that Time Spent Running is her “baby. It feels a lot closer to the music I’m trying to make compared to the album TBH!” Time Spent Running feels more thoughtfully connected than the previous album, with more emotion from Mileena in both lyrics and vocals. They seem to be inviting us to come deeper into their inner world, and the reward of their willingness for vulnerability is a stronger collection of music. 

One thing that hasn’t changed is her commitment to raw, real lyrics. Each song has moments of vulnerability and desire; she doesn’t shy away from the personal or the prophetic. The EP begins with “South Part,” in which Mileena sings, “I’ll take you there now / I’ll guide your hand down / To south parts / Nowhere you can’t explore.” On “Another,” one of the pre-released tracks from Time Spent Running, they sing, “But baby in another life, another time, another place / We could take it farther than it’s ever been… I don’t wanna be another thing, another girl, another thing… Babe just take my hand, and don’t let go / Let’s get comfortable.” 

Mileena’s writing ability and distinct voice go beyond her lyrics. They run a blog on their website, and their posts echo many of the messages in their songs: they write about love, relationships, connections, themself, and others. In their own way, these are lyrical too. Her most recent post, from July, is a poem called “[At Urs After Work]”

“I wonder how much room in your head and your heart, you have for me.

Enough room to have the code to the front door,

Enough room to wash all the dishes to surprise you before you get home

Enough room to interrupt me while I write sitting up in your bed

Precisely why I don’t want you to come home yet.” 

In other posts, she writes about everything from sobriety, “I also stopped drinking and smoking weed; I’ve even got one of those sobriety day counters on my phone to make it feel like it’s all a fucking game, so far I’m 13 days sober,” to concerts, “In the past few days there have been two Toronto based bands whose performances helped me escape the drab reality that is now,” to her partner, “There is something extremely special about being your true self with another,” to leaving a job, “I quit my job yesterday. Not because I no longer need the money, but because I think that if I were to have continued, I would be slowly chipping away at the carefully cut marble statue that is my sanity.” 

The creativity and individualism that comes through in Mileena’s blog writing are the same features that drew me into their music, but the frank catchiness of their songs keeps me returning. When you stop to listen and analyze it, the EP has all these poetic undertones, but it’s also just really fun to groove to. Mileena has graced us with another fabulous project with Time Spent Running, and though short, it’s most definitely sweet.

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