“There is an ache in the flesh of my heart, / in the flesh of my soul. / And when I speak, / my words bob in the air / like corks on water” —Lorca, “Evening” (November 1919)
Poetry strikes us because of the implicit urgency of language. The medium is an emotive shot to the veins. In as few words as possible, fewer than we can conceive, an adept poet communicates to us the grandest of feelings. They defamiliarize the world in an attempt to bring us back to our base emotions. A good, brief poem delivers you to a place of bone-deep familiarity. Poetry is relief, giving us compact words for ephemeral thoughts.
Of course, music is poetic in its own right. The poetics of music are endless, from the way intonations match punctuation on the page to the way syncopation matches the way poets use space to advance a feeling. Yet, it is the way both mediums can be short with us that is perhaps most striking. How small packages of thought and rhythm can worm their way into our hearts, that is perhaps the most exciting element of poetry and music.
The art of brevity rests on a few essential elements. For compact pieces of art to strike, they must be novel, direct, emotive, earnest, and rooted in the recognizable without coming across as contrived. Over the course of three weeks, singer Choker has been crafting a trilogy of EPs attempting to capture and assert his mastery of the art of brevity. On February 8, with the release of Forever & A Few, Choker got it right, crafting a three-track project that boasts some of his most impactful music to date.
“I had a bunch of songs—and it just made sense to separate them as three, and to make them their own world,” Choker told Billboard of his EP series. The goal for each of the EPs was to “make something that almost felt representative of different identities,” and the identity of Forever & A Few was “very heavily inspired by plant life and the growth of flowers and, like, different things in nature that kind of exist in a way that other living things are not necessarily existing.”
This is our element of novelty, and in that same breath, our link back to poetry and the essence of brevity. Strong, brief works exist in the unique sphere Choker is describing: they float above our consciousness only to pierce into the core of unspoken feelings. That is, to say Choker is a cerebral creative would be an understatement.
And so we approach Forever & A Few with the sense that we are being treated to a special project. The final third of the Filling Space series, we again have a call to poetry and the way the language interacts with the space on the page. Here, Choker advances his strain of novelty to suggest that his EP is the missing link, the way language is the bridge between unconscious emotion and our present reality. Yet, none of this is overwhelmingly high-brow. Really, all Choker is doing with the format of his EP series is promising that we will feel something that we’ve been dying to feel, and isn’t that just a splendid thing?
In that breath, the series is as direct as it is novel. There is nothing about Forever & A Few, with its warm guitar chords and inventive production, that is mired in needless complication. Choker gets emotive without hiding away behind obtuse imagery and over-production that sometimes plagued his earlier EPs and even his 2018 full-length, Honeybloom. There is a steely and thoughtful quality to Forever & A Few, a purity and lucidity that makes this Choker’s most accessible collection of songs without notching down his artistic vision. The brevity of the EP forces Choker to be clear and concise with his meanings, for three songs can easily leave nothing of an impression.
Meaning, the short span of Forever & A Few forces Choker to be earnest. He is not simply emoting for the sake of it, but rather delivering biting feelings in a smooth lot. The emotion and earnest quality of the music is most evident in the swells, the way the EP can go from blistering raps to soft ballads, and back again with a twist of experimental production. Choker covers an array of sonic ground without succumbing to wanderlust. Take how “Guava Tea” fades into oblivion only to be resurrected on “Lucky” with its layered falsetto and lilted delivery. Choker uses the supple quality of the guitar to birth and rebirth his themes.
The question of Forever & A Few—how to love the self when falling in love—gets posed and reposed through the waves of the project. The haunting “No one needs me like I need me” carries us to the truth Choker packs into three short tracks: self-love is a battle and a moment of arrival. If this all seems surprisingly simple, that’s because brevity encourages us to be forthright in our attempt to unpack knotted emotions. Pair this with “Try my luck, don’t try my trust” and we see that Choker is packing in sage-like advice into 10 words or less. His words are bobbing in the air for us to gather and take to heart, and Lorca intoned 100 years ago.
Perhaps the most important element of brevity is finding a way to work in the familiar, to defamiliarize our understood reality. Firstly, yes, Choker sounds like Frank Ocean. Of course, this is not his fault. But more purposefully, Choker opens Forever & A Few with an interpolation of SZA’s “Garden,” singing “Moving back and forth, I want your support.” Immediately, there is an understood intimacy between us and Choker. We like SZA, too.
We are now standing on shared ground, and willing to hear Choker out. Brevity requires immediacy, and this interpolation is a brilliant hooking technique. From the first 40 seconds, Choker ensures that we connect with and derive something from his music, even if it is the basic “SZA is good.” At least we have come away with something. But really, the interpolation invites us to take Choker seriously, to see what else he may have up his sleeve. Of course, allusions are difficult to pull off. There is always the risk that you come across as either contrived or unoriginal, but here Choker pivots just enough to provide his own flavor to the interpolation. We spend more time wondering where we have heard these notes before and rejoicing once we piece together the connection than we do wondering why Choker is so obvious and tired.
All of this culminates in “Guppy,” the most experimental of the three tracks. The highly syncopated production catches our attention, while the buttery quality of Choker’s voice keeps us from getting lost in the jitter of drums and tweaked flourishes. There’s wafting energy to “Guppy,” a rich timbre to everything from the background chatter to the piano chords. After an emotive breakdown—Choker howling more than singing, but to our absolute pleasure—we return to the beginning with plucky guitars and the promise of more ballads to come. Forever & A Few signs off by asserting what it is: a succinct and thoughtful EP.
When Choker set out to create his own world, he succeeded precisely because he only gave himself room to succeed. There is no middle ground when you have so little space. You either sink or swim. Brief works have a high propensity to disappoint, feeling either unfinished or painfully rushed. Yet, Choker found a way to pace himself and deliver some of the best music of his brief career. Journey and lesson are packed into Forever & A Few, as are meticulous details that come across as effortless. Nothing trite cluttered the project, and Choker did not take his small canvas to be an excuse to throw buckets of paints. He exercised restraint and high-minded thought, and the final product speaks for itself.