City Dress asks if you got what you wanted on buzzy “Empires of Honey”

Christina Skramstad doesn’t hold back on new track “Empires of Honey” for project City Dress, the first release since her debut album in 2020.

How does it feel to get everything you thought you wanted? The latest release from up-and-coming indie project City Dress explores the emptiness that can result from fulfillment.

City Dress is the moniker for Christina Skramstad, an alum of the acclaimed Berklee College of Music who is now based in Brooklyn. The project’s debut EP Showing Up, which came out during the apex of the pandemic in July 2020, introduced fans to Skramstad‘s versatile vocals and incredible ability to weave together a story with sparse, heartbreaking lyrics. While stand out tracks from this project like “Missouri Boy” and eponymous “Showing Up” are indubitably love songs, City Dress‘ newest track “Empires of Honey” pivots from romantic relationships and instead finds Skramstad looking inward.

The track begins with melancholy piano, which blooms as pensive drums and arpeggiated guitar are folded into the mix. In her measured-yet-melodic voice that recalls Margaret Glaspy or Anna Burch, Skramstad begins to sing, “Soft in the knees / Hunting hungry as bees / Making empires of honey.” The track continues with lyrics that evoke a sense of searching and yearning, coming to a head as Skramstad croons, “Are you full now that you got what you wanted? Now do you want what you got? Got what you want?” These open-ended questions will certainly resonate with anyone who has ever achieved a goal and still felt hollow afterwards. Skramstad juxtaposes the sweetness and abundance of honey in the verses with the straightforward realization of regret in the refrain; this friction serves as a sonic gut punch. Along with co-producer, writer, and guitarist Johnny Simon Jr., Skramstad effectively creates a monotonous feeling as the track is overwhelmingly crisp and clean, almost eerily sanitized for a song about such gut-wrenching subject matter, which contributes to the theme of coming to a numbing realization. Truly, it’s amazing how sad one can feel while listening to such a beautiful song.

Ruminating on the meaning behind the track, Skramstad explains, “The song is about standing at a crossroads and making decisions you imagine will bring you joy and contentment, but realizing that sometimes your wants and needs are misaligned. I constantly return to ‘Empires of Honey’ as I evaluate my decisions and goals, and ask myself if the things I’m yearning or striving for will bring me happiness and fulfillment.”

More than anything, “Empires of Honey” impresses with the mature nature of its sound. City Dress doesn’t rush. There are no gimmicks. The track is inventive without being messy. Skramstad knows who she is as a musician, and she knows what she wants to say. The buzz around City of Dress is well-earned, and we are excited to see what else will come after “Empires of Honey.”

Claire Greising