Like the thought of a sandcastle, which can only last until crashing ocean waves obliterate it into a million pieces, Colorado-based singer-songwriter Aya Maguire’s debut album, The Sandcastle King, is filled with an ephemeral and incandescent sound that is both refreshing and breath-taking.
Maguire, who currently resides in Boulder, Colorado, has been playing music since she was a small child. It was only towards her senior year of high school when she started to pick up songwriting as a means for her creative outlet. She found songwriting more than poetry and music alone, an apt vehicle for her to express herself.
She began performing and sharing her music at her college open mic nights in Portland and in Seattle before her move to Boulder in 2015. Maguire’s confessional songwriting filled with emotional power and thoughtful lyrics soon gained her recognition, drawing comparisons to Iron & Wine, Feist, Joni Mitchell and Hozier.
Maguire’s latest offering meditates heavily on moving on and closing a chapter in your life, as you hold on to your identity.
Maguire’s state of mind is reflected on the album, and she relates, “In releasing my debut album, I once again find myself closing a chapter and opening the door to the unknown, this time with those hard-won lessons behind me.”
The Sandcastle King opens up with “Oh My Heart” that starts off with the quiet numerating over the acoustic guitar as Maguire’s hushed vocal sensibilities come in softly in a dynamic fashion. Next, the sounds of percussions sidle in, into this soothing cadence. This is a great folk track as the metaphor of the ‘heart’ morphs and shapeshifts into many different forms and imageries. The track follows through with a reticent quality.
On “Two To Fold,” the track begins with the steady strumming from the acoustic guitar. The soothing sound really creates a placating quality as the beat of the drum slowly trickles in with arresting rhythms. The song talks about after the end of a disastrous relationship, there is nothing to do but to pick up the broken pieces and start over again.
“The Start” is jumpstarted with an exquisite melody on the electric guitar with ethereal vocals coming from Maguire. The track is filled with emotional excess and some thoughtful renderings. about missing someone and wishing you could start all over again with that someone A piano traces a happening melody that adds to the overall dynamic-ness of the song.
“Water Rise” is a song accompanied by the trickling in of piano keys, the steady strumming from the acoustic guitar, and of course, Maguire’s elegant vocals with the pace of the album picking up on this more upbeat track. The song projects a happening bold sound and is about having that special someone as your anchor whenever ‘life happens’ and they are always there for you.
On “Colors,” the makeshift of cadences from the acoustic guitar to the sounds of the cello and drums creates a memorable performance. The dynamic cadence contains a haunting feel and a melancholy riff with somber undertones. Some lush strings trace underneath the gamut of this track, paving the way in a dramatic fashion.
“There’s No Such Thing As A Portland Thunderstorm” is a lithe song rendered in soft overtures. The quiet sound is stirring with dynamic cadences of strumming from the acoustic guitar and majestic trickling in of keys. The track portrays a narrator and with the sight of a storm, this reminds her of her "ex"- lover and wonders if he is thinking of her. The gloomy detailing of the song is pregnant, like the title elicits, with storm.
“Child’s Play” has a dramatic sound cascading from the strumming from the acoustic guitar as a melancholy cadence and haunting riff fills the song. The clashing of drums gradually joins the track as elegant violin strings struck a dramatic chord on the track.
“Foundations” sounds off with traces of the cello sounds of the acoustic guitar that can be heard on this song. The simple arrangement moves from an acoustic rendition towards the beginning of the track to one filled with electronic nodes. A pulsating electronic backbeat electrifies the backdrop of this track.
On “Internecine Child,” the smoky sound is filled with the sounds of the electric guitar and the steady rhythms from the drums. The simple arrangement is also paved with some dynamic piano layers on this soaring ballad.
“How You Breathe” starts off with some discord over the cadences of strings as abruptly Maguire’s vocals cuts in, in a breathless manner and vocalizes over the sounds of the electric guitar about the kinship she holds with the night and how wordlessly she tries to hold on to her lover as they sleep. The stripped down sense with simply just the electric guitar and Maguire’s vocals add an electrifying element to the song.
“The Sandcastle King” has a simple arrangement of just acoustic guitar and Maguire’s vocals that is filled with an ethereal sense. More than the rest of the album, this track has a dreamy quality to it that gives it a haunting lullaby feel. Listeners will be lulled by and soothed by the song’s graceful sound. The drums eventually join in on the track as well as the electric guitar adding to the arresting ghostly feel. This song is magnificently filled with ethereal layers and soaring vocals.
Maguire creates a striking sound for her debut album, The Sandcastle King. The simple and stripped down layers really harness the emotional power of Maguire’s vulnerable vocals rift with sad undertones and startling, unearthly elements.
Dressed in simple arrangements, the songs on The Sandcastle King allow Maguire to bare all emotionally as she sings of all matters of the heart from love lost to impaired matters of the heart.
Mindful from the very start on what makes a good album, Maguire keeps within her sights her authenticity as an artist. She says, “One learns in this process that not everything one feels can become good music – honest emotion is just one necessary component.”
And with this, Maguire unwraps the confessional, while continuously honing her craft and trying to make herself a better artist, one step at a time.
The Sandcastle King is due out for release July 13.