Mara Liddle’s debut hyperpop EP explores coming of age in a digital era

Pop music has a new star in the making as Mara Liddle’s debut five-track EP continues to justify her title as one of BBC Radio Stoke’s ‘Big in 2023’ artists. Stalemate, out Friday, November 17, blends hyperpop sounds and UK garage with Mara’s soft, melodic vocals, securing her space in the digital music era among the likes of Pinkpantheress, Piri, and Charli XCX. 

The EP – written and recorded in JB Thomas’s home studio over the course of only a few days – chronicles life as a young woman in the modern age, navigating adulthood, maintaining relationships and everything in between. It features singles such as Facebook Official, Mara’s addictive first single, alongside recent releases Oversharing, and All Over The Place. But most excitingly, Stalemate also features two new, unreleased songs. 

Brand new hit Hide and Seek opens the EP, immediately injecting an infectious pink pop energy into the record. Mara said: “It’s all about that stage in a relationship where you feel like you need to be around your partner all the time and like every path you go down leads back to them.” 

That intensity can be felt in the urgency of the track which really does capture the feeling of being at a house party, but with laser focus on one person where everything around is a bit of a haze. Mara’s soft, melodic vocals dance over the dynamic instrumentation, particularly light and airy in the bridge. The influence of artists like pinkpantheress is evident in the song’s electronic synth-pop beats, while the theme of party games and childishness in the track aligns well with the playful and dynamic vibe of the entire EP.

Then we come to Facebook Official, which was crafted from an old demo and really helped Mara discover the sound for the rest of the EP. She added: “It’s a song about how your judgement of a relationship can be based entirely on how it is presented online, whether you’re Facebook official or how quickly they reply to messages etc.” 

The song delves into the impact of social media on relationships, amid a backdrop of ambient keys and spacey pad drums, creating a dynamic and catchy tune that captures the essence of Mara’s exploration of love in the age of the internet. The single moves away from lo-fi bedroom pop to a much cleaner, energetic sound, but it still has that retro 8-bit quality in the autotuned bridge section with crunchy overdrive and chorus delay throughout.

Be Alone – written in no more than a day – shifts the focus to the challenges of communication, and is a testament to Mara’s knack for translating relatable experiences into contagiously catchy choruses. The 22-year-old said: “Be Alone is all about being terrible at communicating and expecting everyone to just guess what it is that you want or to break the code. The whole chorus was pretty much built around the line ‘can’t figure it out for you’ line which came to me as soon as we started creating the song, and as soon as I had the chorus down, the rest of the song fell into place.”

Jacob Swetmore

This is a track that Mara has slipped into live performances in the past and proves to be an upbeat, danceable number – but what is especially notable is how much her own confidence has grown in performing tracks from this EP since I first caught her live in February, and it’s great to see how much she’s evolved as an artist throughout the year as she grows confident in her own sound.

Oversharing is a beer fear anthem inspired by Mara’s experiences as a student navigating new social interactions. “I wrote it just after moving into university accommodation and living with strangers for the first time,” she said. “It’s about not knowing where the line is when you’re chatting to them, maybe having a couple of drinks and spilling your guts to them unintentionally.”

The lo-fi bedroom beats and relatable, anxiety-induced lyrics create a playful yet introspective atmosphere, while closing track All Over The Place boasts more of the same, with a DIY edge having been mixed with iPhone speakers. The Underground’s Lee Barber said ‘upbeat tempo and effortless melody are quickly becoming trademark pieces of Mara Liddle’s outfit’, and that is clear to see in this cohesive and well crafted collection of songs.

If you love infectious energy paired with catchy lyrics packaged for the TikTok generation, then you’ll love Mara’s EP. Enveloping listeners in a world of youthful energy, addictive beats and lyrics that unite us in shared social trauma, she really is ending the year with a bang. And if Mara was set to be ‘big in 2023’, well, I’m very excited to see what 2024 holds for her.

Listen to it here:

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