Portland-based band Floating Room has a talent for capturing that gut-wrenching feeling of being human. Holding room for both tender thoughtfulness and an innermost rage, their newest album Shima has a bark that bites.
2018 album False Bottom speaks in softness. The album exudes a quiet sadness everyone feels in moments of solitude and reflection. 2020’s Tired and True takes a dreamy pop punk tone, lyrically calling the world out on its bullshit. But Shima captures the complexity of songwriter Maya Stoner’s identity in a more direct way. It’s raw and ripping, openly reflecting on Stoner’s own experiences as an Asian American with Uchinanchu roots.
Stoner is demanding to be heard and wondering why it’s taken so long.
In keeping true with Floating Room’s punk-meets-dream-pop sound, the album kicks off with a punch to the gut. “See You Around” encompasses the age old sentiment of “be better, or I’m gone” with the lyrics, “I won’t take up anymore of my time/ I’ll see you around/ you better step up if you don’t want me to leave/ I still got places I could be.”
Thematically similar, “I Wrote This Song For You” is an anthemic reclamation of self worth. “So don’t waste your time trying to prove your worthy of theirs/ they’re not worth your time.” Stoner’s voice croons in adoration of those searching for approval in a world of soul crushing judgement. Quaintly after, “Firetruck” provides a cute and sweet interlude as the universal sounds of a burning crush. Only a firetruck can quell the fiery passion of a new tender love.
At the heart of the album sits “Shimanchu.”
Shimanchu is the name for those Indigenous to the land of (so-called) Okinawa, Japan. The region holds a heavy past, influenced by U.S. and Japanese colonial intervention and a continual uprooting of Indigenous culture and land. Shimanchu translates to “Island People.” Stoner speaks to the experience of being an islander away from their island and the pain that comes with it. “I’m an islander/ my land’s been colonized/ I’m an islander/ I won’t be patronized.”
This personal isolation is perhaps heightened by living in the U.S., a country with a sorted history of racism and violence toward AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islanders). While recent events have drawn some media attention to the atrocious attacks against Asian Americans, this violence is unfortunately not new. Stoner speaks to the outrage of not being heard and having to sit in a rage, so long discounted by discrimination. Stoner is speaking directly to those who refuse to acknowledge the continuous effects of colonization: “Don’t call my island paradise/ I’m an islander/ your silence disturbs me.”
Shima (featuring Maya Stoner on vocals/guitar and Mo Troper on guitar/bass/drums/vocals) will be out Friday, November 12 ahead of Floating Room’s upcoming tour with Drug Church, Glitterer and Citizen.