It’s hard to believe that E^ST – real name Melisa Bester – is only on her debut album. Australia has known her since 2015, and she’s consistently released EP after EP in the years that followed. Her music grew from brooding and muted to bright and blossoming, cloaked in layers of sunlight. With tracks like ‘Life Goes On’, ‘I Don’t Lack Imagination’ and ‘Blowjob’, E^ST demonstrated an understanding of her emotions and lacquered it with biting and punchy lyrics, making it hard to believe she was just a teenager when she started. However, little did we know that E^ST wouldn’t arrive with all her potential with all her scars until the release of I’m Doing It.
I’m Doing It doesn’t exactly open on the happiest of notes. With subtle vocal distortion and atmospheric piano chords, E^ST laments, “You shut me down, and I don’t know who the hell I am now.” There’s a particular type of gut-wrenching melancholy you feel when she sings, “What does it matter? I’m fucked anyway” that feels heavy on your heart. It’s hopelessness and futility – two things we so easily convince ourselves exist yet so rarely try and look beyond.
Singles ‘Flight Path’ and ‘Maybe It’s Me’ follow, which almost show E^ST going delusional in her defeatism. Both tracks are infectious and explosive, festival-ready pop bangers despite E^ST contemplating her loneliness and pondering on what may have led her here. She begins to feel the come-down in ‘Found Somebody’, as she stands in the rain peering through a window at her ex-lover and their new lover. Suddenly, the gravity of the situation has really hit her. No longer are her and her ex-lover floating aimlessly in relationship nirvana; they’ve moved on while she’s locked outside.
She quits while she’s ahead with ‘Fresh Out Of Love’, declaring that her heart is off-limits over quirky orchestral strings. However, she then rips her heart out and flays it on the ground for us all to see in ‘I’m Not Funny Anymore’ – an album standout and devastating piano ballad. Spotlit and sombre, she essentially tackles the same self-deprecation we see in ‘Maybe It’s Me’ but gives it a whole new meaning. She’s slumped on the ground, rain battering against her as she succumbs to the weight of her heartbreak.
But then, a sliver of sunlight hits the path in front of her and glistens ever so slightly. For the first time on I’m Doing It, E^ST sees that there’s more to her than this heartbreak. This is signified by the raw and acoustic semi-interlude, ‘Turn’. It’s not a full 180 from sad to joyous, but it’s an acknowledgement that her sorrow might not be permanent and that her old love might not be her only one.
‘Talk Deep’, the album’s lead single, is shimmering Skins-appropriate pop, demonstrating E^ST’s incredible knack for making even the most mundane of moments between two people seem fantastical and other-worldly. She’s feeling electricity again, and it continues to coarse through her veins in the electric guitar-propelled ‘No One With You’.
But, before she decides that she’s got love to give again, she needs to have her catharsis. Her moment of realisation that she’s going to be OK. That moment comes in the euphoric and the magnificent ‘Walking Home In The Rain’. “So what if it rains? I’ve got my parade,” she sings, jumping in puddles and grinning from ear to ear. “I feel a change come over me / Suddenly, the world don’t look so bleak,” she screams, as she hits the pivotal ‘ah-hah!’ moment of the album.
She can’t try and quickly fix her sadness, but she doesn’t have to wallow in it either. She might not be able to reverse it, but she can accept it. And by simply acknowledging that it’s there, she gives herself room to move forward when she’s ready. It’s still raining, but now it’s bringing her back to life as opposed to completely submerging her.
As she skips through the drum-and-bass-inspired ‘Get Through’, the empowering and bombastic ‘I Wanna Be Here’ and the serene and peaceful closing title track, E^ST decides that she’s going to do it for herself – not for old lovers and not for potential new ones. It’s true that you can’t really love anyone else until you love yourself, but her journey isn’t only leading to someone else’s arms. It’s leading her straight into the eye of the storm, because now she knows that she’ll survive – and will have no one to thank but herself.
Naming your debut album I’m Doing It is a bold and soul-bearing move. It can be said in a defiant and resistant way. It can be said in a defeatist and morose way. It can be said with eyes closed and heart open, as you prepare to dive headfirst into the deep unknown. E^ST goes through all that and then some on her long-awaited first LP, as she struggles to process heartbreak and scrambles to put the pieces back together again. But the end result isn’t fixing what’s broken – it’s giving herself time to do it later.
And, as she lies on the grass facing the sun and watching the clouds dissipate above her, E^ST is here to say that she’s doing it, and she’s doing it on her own terms.