Album Review: Slow Pulp – ‘Yard’
Posted: by The Editor
Slow Pulp’s swooning, weepy slacker rock album Yard is brimming with earworms. It is an album that explores intricacies and insecurities in relationships, questioning what you deserve and discovering comfort within yourself. The Chicago-based band—by way of Wisconsin—released their second LP with ANTI- and their tour begins this month.
A sense of yearning pervades the lyrics: a yearning for love, support, and putting trust in others and yourself, but also a yearning for more negative aspects, like doubt and insecurity. Yard navigates the ways in which we often get in our own way while pursuing or strengthening a relationship. It holds a magnifying glass to the artistic process of writing, and how time spent alone can provide support, confidence, and love—the things we think we can only find in someone else. It’s a journey of self-discovery and how to reap these lessons.
“Doubt” has a feel-good vibe adjacent to an early 2000s Sheryl Crow hit, but the bummer lyrics contrast with the sound in an over-the-top way (non-derogatory—I love campy things). This album is full of songs that feel reminiscent of late ‘90s hits, songs that are upbeat but possess a darker underbelly when really listened to. Emily Massey’s stunning and lulling voice sharpening the punch of self-sabotage is a thread throughout this album, which simultaneously seem both nostalgic and current for me—I’m 27 and, after finishing a grad program where I wrote poems all day, now grappling with a mundane day job. I teeter on feeling too broke for someone with a salary, stoked I have health insurance, and wanting to randomly detonate my life, career, and relationships. What am I doing? Am I a good friend? A good partner? Do I deserve any of this? I feel young enough that it is acceptable to still try and figure my shit out, but old enough that I should know better by now, or at least know how to handle this quietly and productively. Yard seems to tackle these complications, but tackle is too aggressive a word for this album—Yard brings a cup of coffee to the cold, midwest porch of my mind and says, “let’s hash this out.” It muddles in moments of validation, growth, and questioning all of it. The title track features Massey’s father’s assistance in recording vocals and there’s something to be said about the sense of comfort someone close to you can provide, and on “Yard” that closeness comes through. It’s a song—and an album—full of chemistry, which tracks, given the band’s history of being essentially life-long friends.
This record shines brightest with its meta-songwriting, and it’s one of my favorite threads throughout the album. “Yard” paints a picture of neighbors hearing Massey record while barking dogs come through in the take. The line “I’m sorry I wasn’t there enough, it’s on me” pulls you out of the song and is delivered in such a way that I almost feel guilty for listening to the confession. “Slugs” will one hundo-p find its way on my Spotify wrapped, singing “You’re a summer hit / I’m singin’ it” echoes all the times I’ve been infatuated with someone and daydreamt about what our reality together might be like.
“Carina Phone 1000” devastated me. The back and forth phone tag between friends where you catch up, only to let too much time pass and have to catch up again. It made me wonder about when I got to the point in my life where I now write notes in my phone to “call xxx” in order to remember to keep in touch. “That’s life I guess” is heart-shattering when sung in Massey’s vocal range. Luckily, “Worm” comes through next to mop up the puddle I’ve become with fuzzy guitar and distorted harmonies tangled within each other. It’s these subtle ways that balance is a theme in this album, apparent not only in the lyrics but also the sound. Yard has the perfect mix of calmer, quieter songs alongside the ones with gnarled instruments and veiled vocals.
As the album progresses, it becomes more stripped down—like a room is slowly emptying of other people and you’re eventually left with yourself, reflecting and growing, comfortable in the stillness of what’s to come. At one point in my life, I found myself spending so much time searching for something in other people, that I forget to find that thing in myself. Stability, safety, trust, love—things absent from my life that I would lash out when others didn’t share it with me right away, and I had never thought to nurture it within my own body. Yard comes full-circle with illuminating self-discovery. The days of self-sabotage, insecurities, and feeling lost are in the past, and there is now an understanding of the need to foster love and support with yourself. This clarity is displayed in “Broadview” which begs the question, “is it okay to stay inside and out of love?” It’s the most memorable song off the album for me, complete with pedal steel, harmonica, and banjo. (I’m such a sucker for a good banjo twang.) “Fishes” was written while Massey was alone in a cabin, ruminating while fish circled in a nearby lake. It’s a testament to the self-discovery that completes this album. Yard leaves you with “I’ve gotta catch myself this time / like I know that I’m the prize,” the opposite of how the record begins: searching for love and support in someone else in “Gone 2.” I was late to the party of Slow Pulp’s earlier work but look forward to spending time with them as the leaves change and I return to spending more time inside, with myself.
Yard is out now.
Ryleigh Wann | @wannderfullll
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