EP Review: american poetry club — do you believe in your heart?!
Posted: by The Editor
I love the specificity of tone delivered by an all-lowercase string of words, topped off with an interrobang. The sharpness of an exclamation point muted by a tentative voice. The intensity of feeling undermined by the uncertainty of a question mark. It’s like, I am asking you a question – I am yelling the question at you – but not too loud.
Down to the punctuation and capitalization, do you believe in your heart?! is a perfect name for the latest collection of songs from american poetry club. These songs nail that same lowercase interrobang tone—they’re at once jovial expressions of tweeish indie pop and swelling, dramatic, emotive bedroom rock. They’re loud and outward about the feelings they are trying to convey but they’re also quiet, often delicate, aesthetically homespun recordings. They’re yelling a question at you, but not too loud.
Opener “thank you x3” gradually plays out this dynamic, starting off with a gentle but nasal expression of loneliness—“I don’t really wanna be alone right now”—that turns over to warmth and gratitude—“I am thankful you’re my friend/ I am thankful this won’t end.” For much of the song, low acoustic guitars and gently thumping drums maintain a rumbling presence, but for the most part this is a sparse and quiet song…until it isn’t. In the final minute, the singer-songwriter feel of the first two thirds of the song is completely erased, giving way to a louder crash of sounds, trumpet and group vocals and thick, full electric guitars. And in that moment, the sentiment gets even stronger, even more bleary eyed—“yeah we get sad, yeah we get lonely, yeah we get scared/ it might go slowly/ but you can always call me.” It’s quiet until it’s loud. It’s lowercase, but then there’s that exclamation mark.
No matter what grammatical turns the band may take on do you believe in your heart?!, these five songs are consistently excellent. “the light in” has a more subtle climax that incorporates, if I’m understanding the credits correctly, a snippet from the film Paddington 2, which oddly does a lot of work in terms of intensifying the texture of the song. Closer “one day we will both feel fine and good and free!” employs a kind of sonic reset after a muted first half, stopping the show for a moment to switch over to an expressive instrumental outro. “the exit” is punchy and full throughout, its intermittent peaks reminiscent of the gushing highs of something like In The Aeroplane Over The Sea or even Arcade Fire’s Funeral.
Those comparisons bring me to an important point about do you believe in your heart?! While the lyrics and attitude of this band makes them feel connected to emo, these songs feel more like a continuation of the lineage started by collective-minded indie rock bands like Los Campesinos! or Broken Social Scene. The multitude of voices (five out of the six members of american poetry club are credited with vocal contributions), their ability to heighten every emotion to heroic proportions, their sometimes oddly-shaped and shaggy-sounding songs—the hallmarks of american poetry club are familiar in a way that feels exciting, more than worthy of multiple punctuation marks.
Jordan Walsh | @jordalsh
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