In her life and in her music, Emily Plazek is many people at once. In reality, she’s a yoga instructor, a businesswoman who started a music consultation business and “Millaze,” a local dreamhop singer-songwriter who debuted songs from her album “Teaser vs. Warning” in a performance 8 p.m. Friday in the Blockhouse Bar.
Within the landscape of her songs, Plazek wears even more hats. In the lyrics of “The Green Sweater and the Other Side,” the second song in her set, she takes the shape of character “Little Girl,” who represents her past, as well as “Green Sweater” woman, who symbolizes her future. Plazek said that in some way or another, she lives in every character she writes about.
“Everything is pretty darn autobiographical, but not always in the most obvious way,” Plazek said. “I live in every single one of these.”
Plazek performed three songs from the new album, in which she dipped into the story of Little Girl’s journey through “Oakland,” a fictional dream world that exists in Plazek’s mind. To catch up with Green Sweater in the future, Little Girl searches for the answers to life’s great questions and finds herself distracted by temptation, confusion and introspection on the way.
This is the essence of “Teaser vs. Warning,” Plazek said. On her harrowing journey to self-actualization, Little Girl finds herself drowning in euphoric experiences that are either previews for what’s to come or bad omens.
“By seeing the other side of the story, you can lose yourself,” Plazek said. “And she loses herself, fast and hard.”
“Teaser vs. Warning” is just the first of three records Plazek has planned for her first album series, or as she likes to call it, her first book, “The Malaise.” In addition to songs from the new album, Plazek performed tracks from the forthcoming “books” she’s been writing her entire life. Much of her music was written as a way of processing what she calls her Hell period, a time in her life where she was overwhelmed by a mixture of emotional abuse, anxiety, dissociation, stress and an eating disorder.
“It’s such a coping mechanism,” Plazek said. “It’s so much easier to sing about stuff like that than to talk about it.”
Plazek performed most of her set from behind a piano, where she set a rhythmic groundwork for mystical sounds, such as tiger growls and vocal echoes, to be layered over. For some songs, such as “Something Great,” she ditched the piano entirely to stand closer to the edge of the stage, performing with only a backing track behind her and matching the lyrics with expressive dancing.
Members of the audience joined Plazek in dancing during “Airbnb,” a song Plazek said is about the beginnings of a relationship that flourishes through text messages. One of the dancers was Katie Strunk, whose husband Joe Strunk performed before Plazek. Strunk said she admires how intimate Plazek is in her performances as well as the whimsy of her music.
“It just sounds celestial,” Strunk said. “It sounds like a dream, that’s why I like it.”
Self-proclaimed Millaze superfan Betsy Snider, who studies biology at IU, was also in the audience. Snider said she’s been following Plazek for a year and is impressed with how she merges music with deeply descriptive narrative.
“She’s taken storytelling in songwriting to another level,” Snider said. “It’s like 'Lord of the Rings' meets piano. It’s really truly fantastic.”
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