Album Review: Varsity – ‘The Basement Takes (2015-2016)’
Posted: by The Editor
The Basement Takes (2015-2016) is like if a finsta was an album. It’s brimming with the sort of candor that people often keep stowed away out of fear of judgement or to minimize embarrassment. It’s refreshing and authentic in that it doesn’t try to be “cool” or “chill;” it’s a monsoon of uncertainty and frustration. There’s musings about feeling foolish, “guess I didn’t realize you were everybody’s type,” and making poor choices, “excellent taste in terrible dudes.” “Second Act” is about longing for the retake on failed romance that’ll never happen, opening with “I made a list of the people who left / and swore up and down that they would come back.” Similarly, “Cult of Personality” details clinging onto memories in hopes of feeling sated. And “So Sad, So Sad” is, as you already guessed, about sadness, centering on the process of accepting that you can’t mandate someone to like you back.
Some might find this wistfulness pathetic and wonder why they won’t just get a grip and move on. (How many times have you read a tweet that’s some variant of “if you’re going through a break-up, just dye your hair and pretend it didn’t happen”?) Ruminating is not conducive to progressing – and at no point in the album is it ever alluded that all of this is a good idea. But is there a such thing as a person who makes good decisions 100 percent of the time? Most people know better than to wail about the past, but it’s not like emotions come with an on/off switch – sometimes, you feel things, and sometimes, it’s not what you want to feel, but you’re feeling it anyways because feelings are weird. Coping is sinuous and tiring. Emotional upheavals are quotidian and toughness, at a certain point, is a facade. And that’s what makes this record endearing – it’s more than ready to admit to its flaws.
The Basement Takes is lustrous in sound, clearly defined and effervescent – think Mal Blum fist-bumping Chris Farren with a spoonful of Queen of Jeans. It’s an indie-pop record that took influence from prior decades, with doo-wop stylings and eleganza doled out throughout. Vocalist Stef Smith is never not palpable, suavely oscillating between octaves and ensuring coherence at every step. She often paces syllables in tandem with the beat, giving birth to a pleasing congruity, even if it does feel a little stiff at times. “Taken By Surprise” is fluorescent and perky, and standout track “Eye to Eye” has a jauntiness that never wears down, which amplifies until it outpours into a jolting, frenetic melange of instrumentals.
Healing is the best thing you can do for yourself, but it takes time. And until it happens, give this record a spin and take solace in the fact that someone else is struggling to hoist themselves up just as much as you are.
Disappointing / Average /Good / Great / Phenomenal
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