Album Review: Squitch — ‘Learn To Be Alone’

Posted: by The Editor

While Boston’s Squitch are barely past adolescence, they’re already cool enough to share stages with some of indie rock’s most interesting artists, including Melaina Kol, Sidney Gish, and Waveform*. The band’s latest record, Learn To Be Alone, finds the youthful crew labelmates with Disposable America acts such as Soft Blue Shimmer, Cave People, and Alexander. On paper, Squitch may seem like another gentle, introspective New England softcore act, but don’t be mistaken—Learn To Be Alone is packed with hard rocking energy that would fit just as nicely on a lineup with Mastodon as it would at a seated living room show. As someone wearing a Peaer shirt while I type this, I’m well aware that Squitch were likely not trying to make the type of record I could pump iron to at the gym (Okay, fine, I don’t go to the gym, I can barely even do a pushup), but I promise I only mean this as a compliment.

Learn To Be Alone is defined by intricate arrangements and dynamic fluctuations that are uncharacteristic and impressive coming from a college age band. “Splintered Gaze” is a sludgy, lopsided track that I could imagine blaring from a smokey van at a School Of Rock-style battle of the bands. Right as the song threatens to pigeonhole itself as a screamy, straightforward slice of punk, it transforms to become an exercise in syncopated, mathy jamming. While it’s spiritually akin to Priests, if someone blindfolded me and told me that its searing breakdown was ripped from Sleep’s Dopesmoker, I wouldn’t doubt it for a second. “Part Of Me” is an overcast, galloping homage to Cloud Nothings-style emo revival, its tom-heavy drum groove lays the framework for one of Learn To Be Alone’s most melodically intriguing tracks. Best of all, lead single “Pretty Boy” flaunts a guitar riff that awesomely combines harmonics and Thurston Moore-esque strumming. Its blunt Fender Jaguar tone never fails to make me pick up my own guitar and noodle along, trying, but always failing, to figure out the secret to emulating frontperson Em Spooner’s ornate musicianship.

On their latest, Squitch embrace a production style that frankly wouldn’t work if employed by an older band. The act play with a proficiency far beyond their years, but Learn To Be Alone’s songs never sound refined or feel too polished. Squitch embraces their scruffy sonics well—the record’s rhythms and riffs sound like the hard work of a bunch of 30 year old touring veterans, but Learn To Be Alone has the essence of an 8-track mixtape packed with long-forgotten artists that you unearthed in a box of your parents’ college mementos. A sound so jagged might hold another group back, but it suits Squitch’s penchant for maximalism well.

Learn To Be Alone is one of the most engaging, lively, and downright sweaty records to emerge from the thriving Massachusetts music scene in recent memory. It firmly cements Squitch’s status as one of rock’s most authentic up-and-coming acts. Clocking in at almost 35 minutes, the record is a full length album that holds my attention like a 17-minute hardcore EP. “Quit while I’m ahead / Stop before I make my bed / And lie in it,” Spooner sings atop a surprisingly twee instrumental on closing track “Night Star.” The fire of juvenescence burns bright in Squitch’s songwriting. They sound like the hypothetical garage band you and your high school best friends wish you’d been able to get off the ground.

Disappointing / Average/ Good / Great / Phenomenal

Ted Davis | @tddvsss

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