Buzz Cuts Heralds Makzey as a Remarkable Talent in Austin Pop

by Nick Hanover

Makzey Buzz Cuts

I don’t know what your first semester at college was like but mine involved a whole lot of bad choices, regret and indecision. It certainly did not involve recording a whole album of lush, sinful pop navigating that torturous middle space between ambition and self-destruction, as Makzey has done on the disturbingly self-assured Buzz Cuts. Remarkable in its careful balance of youthful confidence and disarming vulnerability, Buzz Cuts commands attention even in the middle of what is becoming a more and more impressive local pop scene, announcing a new talent whose ability to instill profound intimacy while also showcasing impeccable songwriting and producing chops will allow him to go very far indeed.

Makzey at least seems to recognize he’s going places, even if he is (thankfully) self-deprecating about it, remarking at one point that his grandma thinks he’s famous already though he knows that’s far from the truth. Smartly following the basic template of the Weeknd’s inner turmoil R&B, Makzey nonetheless makes some key alterations in sound and lyrics: first and foremost, Buzz Cuts is an optimistic album at heart and even when the songs explore darkness and loathing, the instrumentation and vocals circle back to a lightness that lifts your very soul.

“Maybe,” which provides that shout out to grandma, has the lift right at the start, as Makzey provides himself with chirping, bubbly synths before explaining why he needs a vacation from himself and the adulthood he’s just now experiencing in fits and starts. At the center of it is I-35 as an extended metaphor for the frustrating slowness of growth– even as Makzey hops into his car in pursuit of good ol’ fashioned vehicular freedom, he ends up stuck in the crawl of 35, where his thoughts can’t help but wander towards doubt about his talents, forlornly stating “Maybe I’m out of my mind.” But in his voice there is still freedom, that singular ability of song to allow you to exhale woes until they’re joy or at least relief, regardless of whether it’s on stage or alone in your car in traffic.

That feeling of being confined and forced to engage in self-examination is just as present in “Rain Song,” but there the arrangement is looser, shifting from a liquid see-saw flow to a wide open, sprawling chorus that brings to mind the sun bursting through a midday thunderstorm. Things get more nocturnal on “Skinny,” cricket chirps and whispering samples giving way to bass rumbles and forlorn backing vocals. It’s less of a club anthem than a moody soundtrack for a walk down the block to the cornerstore for cigarettes and a soggy case of tallboys to sip on the porch. And then there’s “Happy V2,” where the title isn’t so much sarcastic as barbed, twisting that polite “I just hope that you’re happy” sentiment to an ex into a poison tipped weapon, the melody practically dripping with tight lipped disdain.

“Happy V2” also serves as an example of what unifies Buzz Cuts— it’s Makzey’s willingness to explore himself in front of an audience, from pettiness to self-deprecation to doubt to that big adult step of allowing yourself to just be. That last bit is usually what holds artists back until they’re well beyond Makzey’s age, as they cling to influences and predecessors for safety because of a fear of being themselves and thus being judged as such. With Makzey, there’s no such concern and as a result, his work stands out as something refreshing and profound while also signifying that Makzey’s journey towards defining who he is has only just begun.

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Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at  Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover