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Mae Krell Wades the Waters of Recovery with “phantom limb”

After a two-year hiatus from music, queer folk singer-songwriter Mae Krell returned this year to continue tugging on the collective heartstrings of their devoted listeners and fans with the singles “are you sure,” “colorblind,” “rest stop,” and “snow.” Their newest single “phantom limb,” was released last week.

“phantom limb” swells with crisp acoustic plucking and echoing walls of reverberating piano. The soft instrumental accompaniment and melancholy tonalities of Krell’s voice evokes the style of Big Thief and Phoebe Bridgers.

Throughout the song, Krell unravels their shortcomings in the process of recovering from addiction. “You’re still here like a phantom limb/An itch I can’t scratch cause I’ll tear off my skin,” they sigh in a sorrowful lilting vocal delivery over scintillating production.

“People often expect me to be ‘healed’ now that I’m sober, not realizing that my disease will continue to trail behind me for the rest of my life,” Mae revealed. “‘phantom limb’ speaks to my recovery, and what it’s like to choose to carry something difficult with you instead of letting it go untreated.” 

I know what it’s like to love someone who struggles with addiction, and this song is a stab-in-the-heart reminder that no matter what a person does to help their recovering loved ones, there really is no way to understand a person’s relationship to substance abuse unless you’ve lived through addiction yourself. Krell has lived that experience, and their transparency in “phantom limb” is honest without diminishing the struggle nor overstating it.


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