Album Review: Cicala – “Post Country”
Posted: by The Editor
With an album cover hand-drawn on a cellphone by Quinn themselves, Post Country by Cicala radiates authenticity through rambling anecdotes, dreamy visions, and warm harmonies. South Carolina natives Quinn (they/them), Jimmy (he/him), Jackson (he/him), and Greg (he/him) make up the kinda-folky kinda-indie kinda-emo sound on the record. Echoing the conversational sound of bands like The Front Bottoms and McCafferty but with a pinch of country twang, Post Country is like a storybook of vivid memories that are recited with an ease and flow to create a beautifully catchy summer record.
The band’s sound anchors itself in Quinn and their acoustic guitar, but the sound of four-piece Cicala glows as it plays out every track on the album. Though each song varies greatly in structure, there’s a familiarity that comes with the strip back to instrumentals that helps the album remain consistent. A note-worthy example is on the first track, “Leave,” which transitions from acoustic to full band on a slow build that breaks into a jam at the signal of a fun “Woo!”. Another is when drummer James Uzzel shines as he plays out the end of “14” accompanied by a killer lead guitar. These blowout moments are fantastic and energetic, and also work to make the moments where it’s just acoustic Quinn feel even more heartwarming.
My favorite part of the album, though, after weeks of repetition, is the writing. There’s freedom in the way these stories are retold, not bound by typical time signatures or rhyme-schemes, that give a lightness to songs like “Dissociation” or “Corey” and makes their more introspective lines a little more cathartic to sing out loud. These stream-of-consciousness lyrics are what makes this record feel relatable and personal, and when paired with details like leaving the voice memo in the beginning of “PTD,” or ending the last song “View” with the rumbling of turning off equipment, make a tight-knit world for this album to live in.
A special few minutes comes with track four, “Happenstance” followed by track five, “Sim.” They’re the most “fun” five minutes on the album because of their quippy tempos and cheeky line pairings. “Happenstance” cuts in with “I remember getting in my car going to pick you up wondering if / you were on heroin or something else that I would never touch” and some of the most clear and charming bits of harmony accompanied simply by the pluck of a guitar. It’s a bit of a confessional (“and I still drive by your old house / but only when it’s happenstance”), mixed with a self-drag (“I’m setting expectations that I can’t make myself / and I wish I read more books than I do / and I wish I had more energy like a few years ago”) that reinforces the feeling of honesty and openness established in the first few songs.
“Sim” stuck out to me on my first listen , and it still remains my favorite out of all ten. There’s so many great moments in a song that’s only 2:20 seconds long that it feels like a rollercoaster— from the way that Quinn’s voice rolls in with a special bit of power over a sweet guitar to the crescendo into the last section of the track that consists of a quick barrage of questions only interrupted to move the pitch up a bit and hammer in “and are you happy about it?” The second verse begins with a tiny play into rhyming (“look more familiar / phase out all the filler” — “stranger in my house / I’m slowly finding out” ) before my absolute favorite moment in entire record. One last ramble of “I’m used up, I’m tapped out, I’m stating doubt that I am capable of anything other…” is accompanied by a full band crescendo that then pulls completely back to just Quinn and backing vocals over the quietest pick of strings. The moment is so exhilarating and exciting to listen to that it gives the energy boost needed to transition into slower track “14”.
“24” is a standout, stunning section of Post Country. It’s different in the way that it is a story of one full narrative, rather than a collection of memories pieced together by the narrator. If “dream folk” was a genre, this song exemplifies it: twinkly strings, sweet lines, and the chronicling of over three decades of a man’s life story. One of the only times this album feels steady and predictable is in the nodding beat of the chorus that makes subtle changes each time it cycles through (“You’re still on my list of things to see” / “You’re still on his list of things to see” / “When you’re someone who’s on a list of things to see”). It acts as a welcome change of pace and feels like a centering point for the type of music that Cicala draws some of its inspiration from.
It’s not unreasonable to say that Post Country is fueled by the energy of lead vocalist Quinn Cicala, when they’re finishing up a solo tour with just an acoustic guitar playing songs from this album. But, it would be criminal of me not to mention how much of a treat it would be to hear these songs with a full band. With the drums and the bass and extra harmonies, Quinn’s talent in writing and performing is only emphasized and never overcrowded. Even after spending two full weeks with this album on repeat, I still find myself returning to it for sunny days when I need a boost, and it will be on every roadtrip playlist I make this summer, no doubt about it.
Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal
Olivia Keasling | @shutup_olivia
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