Listening to Onbloom’s new EP Momentum in a beat-up cafe on a cold, rainy day in Edinburgh feels like a personal curation, despite being an ocean away from the artist’s home city of Boston. It is the sound of a cool rain tapping at the glass while you look off into the distance, considering how we got here. Smooth and sultry vocals haunt your headphones as 808s crash above its mellow synths. It does what all great projects do: it creates a moment in time.
In only six songs on her second EP, Onbloom shows herself to be incredibly versatile. “If I had it my own way/They’d make stories about my face/Coloring in the lines in gray,” she croons on the soft beats of “Sunken Canvas,” reflecting on the loneliness and alienation she feels in this world. It is this lyrical poise and her sharp focus on the powers of harmony and succinct production which makes Onbloom stand out in a sea of R&B artists seeking to curate vibes more than fully-formed songs. The EP as a whole tells a full story in less than 15 minutes, rising and falling through its flashier moments like “Ultra” or its brief transitory stages seen in “Wings For Sale.”
While her career has only been going since 2020, she has already gotten deserved recognition, being nominated for Best R&B Artist at the Boston Music Awards this past year. The video for her 2020 song “Self” also adds to her image as a character in the city, someone you could imagine in a hazy jazz bar in the evening or smoking a cigarette outside a cool café. That is, to say, it is an EP that displays character through her vulnerability. She reflects on this through both the ambiance the project provides and sharp lyricism. “On “Ultra” she muses on the unknowability of life, stating that “It’s all alignment,” as Kofi Lost harmonizes and raps alongside her, observing the liminal spaces we’ve inhabited since the pandemic. On the more melancholy “Foul Play,” she describes “following the clouds/waiting for your mercy to show up.” It is a heartbreakingly lonely song, reminiscent of benzodiazepines and their numbness. Moments like these seem akin to much of the alienation many have felt in this increasingly isolated age.
Indeed, Onbloom has stated that the project’s title refers to her own life processes during the pandemic, with progress and understanding not coming as linear movements. Rather, as life ebbed and flowed between total estrangement and a sense of normalcy, to find our footing we needed to gradually work off momentum. The EP reflects this, never going too fast, rather floating in a cloud of cannabis smoke with a coy smile and an impassioned cry from one movement to the next. Even its cover art is not sequential, arranged as 3 misplaced portraits of the artists that come together through association and a sense of unified presence, rather than sequence.
Onbloom has a clear sense of individuality and voice, and I hope more people in Boston and all over recognize her talents. Whenever she decides to create a full-length project, it would be interesting to see what else she can do with the power of her wonderful voice. Whether you hear her in a sultry nightclub in Boston or off of a laptop across the pond like I did, her presence and emotional honesty is impossible to ignore.