For her sophomore EP Distance Makes Me Sensitive, singer/songwriter Lindsey Cohen transformed some recent experiences into music that’s both raw and reflective. The follow-up to her debut EP Grace Under Pressure finds Cohen teaming up with producer Mike Beck of Secret Society Music to weave her soulful vocals and fiercely honest lyrics into a graceful yet gritty breed of indie-pop. “The EP was really driven by the stories in my songs, which share common themes of betrayal, confusion, and, ultimately, strength,” says Cohen, a New York native and Columbia University student. “I wanted the feel of it to reflect those stories, so I found myself gravitating toward a heavier sound, taking some risks, and letting go a little.”
Cohen uses a tapestry of textures and tones to echo the emotional subtleties at the heart of Distance Makes Me Sensitive. Lead single “Unhappy Ending,” for instance, fuses stripped-down, raw guitar riffs, icy melodies, and bitterly cutting lyrics about a relationship doomed by bad communication and too much expectation (“Blame it on a misunderstanding/Welcome to my unhappy ending”). The syncopated, piano-fueled rhythms of “Exhausted” perfectly capture the pre-breakup feeling of being pushed to the brink, while “Blindsided” chronicles an emotional break-up with eerie atmospherics, and “Call My Name” channels romantic frustration with driving guitar. And on the haunting and hypnotic “Vampire,” Cohen merges theatrical, ethereal verses with an almost Victorian lyric. “The song is about a relationship where I felt like the other person was constantly putting me down, metaphorically sucking my blood,” she explains.
Working in Beck’s Brooklyn studio, Cohen sought to capture the feel of recording the EP as a single session as a way to carry the emotion through from song to song. “Toward the end of recording my vocals for ‘Exhausted,’ Mike and I agreed that I should run around the block so that I would literally sound exhausted when I sang,” she recalls. “And it worked — it gave my voice a breathiness that fit with the hopeless feeling we wanted to get across at the song’s end.”
On Grace Under Pressure, Cohen first hinted at her affection for the brooding emotions of garage-rock bands like The Kills and The White Stripes, but leaned more toward the daring introspection of such artists as Fiona Apple and Regina Spektor in crafting her own songwriting. With Distance Makes Me Sensitive, she ventures further into edgier territory while also exploring more recently discovered alt-rock influences, including Radiohead and Broken Bells.
In thinking back on the making of Distance Makes Me Sensitive, Cohen says her proudest moment occurred with the recording of “Vampire.” “I remember feeling really comfortable and letting go — not getting caught up in the notes, just feeling the song,” she says. Cohen adds that the tension between pure feeling and thoughtful soul-searching greatly propelled her creative process. “One of the main themes of the EP is looking back and trying to make sense of life, but having my emotions get in the way, which is why I chose Distance Makes Me Sensitive as the title,” she says. And in detailing that struggle, she hopes to help others deal with their own experiences and cut themselves some slack. “What I love most about songwriting is being able to connect with other people,” she says. “I love listening to music and relating to the lyrics. I really want to give that same feeling of belonging to other people out there.”