Saying that Kira May’s new album is an experience sells it short. The Toronto-based artist first made a mark with her debut Health EP, which earned praise for its prominent use of looped vocals, able to create soaring soundscapes with some accompaniment on guitar and percussion. Her new record, due out this Friday, uses these techniques and expands on them to form a cohesive full-length effort. Sense is a daring fifty-five minute opus, told through the eyes and ears of an anxious empath.

May has been writing music since her early teenage years, but never had the nerve to share or perform for anyone. She describes herself as shy and looks back on her era of acute social anxiety with some solemnity. “I knew that it was something I really wanted and it made me really sad that I wasn’t doing it,” she told the I Quit My Job podcast two summers ago, while discussing a group therapy course which helped her to break out of her shell. Other musical inspirations from Bjork to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy showed her that music doesn’t have to be conventional in any sense of the word. When she learned about live looping, she finally began to emerge with some confidence.

After releasing the Health EP, May took a long break before putting out new music. She never stopped writing and recording, but her old foe anxiety had returned. “I was slow to do anything with [my new music] because I was afraid to,” she said in an interview with Music Musings and Such. “I was afraid to record it; I was afraid to ask musicians to play with me…the whole process was a slow and gigantic spite of being surrounded by amazing and supportive people. I had to deal with my personal issues before I had the wherewithal to work on any of this properly.”

Eventually, May found her footing again, and the new album was worth the wait. Sense is only ten tracks long, but is generously spacious which explains the long runtime. Her vocals remain the pillar on which the record stands, but the textures her voice explores are limitless. 'Taste' opens the album with an entirely a cappella start, preaching in an empty chapel until a few minutes in when the loops ascend beyond the pulpit. From there, Sense proves to be a mostly danceable affair, even in quieter moments.

Occasionally, the music becomes self-referential, though not always sonically. The concept of the album preceded its creation, so May was able to write with a purpose, incorporating motifs naturally into the narrative. 'Heat' seems to grow slowly until a spark combusts with ample background vocals and other looped chops. One can imagine that the layers of 'Saturation' live up to its title, and the transition between that and 'Sensory Deprivation' will take breath away like a brick to the chest. On Sense, May flits between teaching us how to experience and learning from her own; even 'Taste' remembers a body’s mechanics, for better or worse: “every sensation grows until I start to choke.”

She tells the 405, “Writing and performing this record was a way for me to understand myself, my relationship with fear, and to exorcise overwhelming feelings of panic and depression. Sense tells the story of nearly two decades of my life as a misunderstood empath whose sensitivity has yielded both immense pleasure and debilitating anxiety. I have tried to convey not only the euphoria and magic that the world fills me up with, but also the pain, stress and fear that has led to avoidance and inertia for much of my life. Sense wraps pleasure and pain together throughout its songs and tells us that we can use our senses and all of their limitations in order to transcend them and discover what lies beyond.”

Relative to her lifetime of emotions, May’s career has been short; she still has much to share with us, having revealed to Music Musings that she’s already written and demoed new material for her next release. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. Experience Sense today and buy it when it’s out. It will hold you over for the next four years for sure.

Sense drops this Friday, May 4. Follow Kira May on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.