EP Review: Tomberlin – ‘Projections’

Posted: by The Editor

Sarah Beth Tomberlin, the LA-via-Kentucky based musician who performs under her surname, remains a force bubbling below the surface. Closely associated with artists like Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker, Tomberlin has yet to catch the level of praise those artists have. Her debut At Weddings was a diffuse, refined indie-folk record. Each song formed around a pure strumming pattern like a vine creeping up a trellis, her voice just above a whisper. Since its release, fans haven’t had few clues as to where her sound might drift.

While promoting At Weddings, Tomberlin toured extensively with Alex G. Her songs, while not particularly roaring, still carry enough force to fill a room. Alex G not only took her on tour but also posted several times about how much he and his band believed in her and her work. It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that the Philadelphia sui generis and his bandmate Sam Acchione would end up working on her next project. As a result, her new EP Projections is brighter and more emphatic, without sacrificing any of the lightness that made At Weddings so precious. Songs like the opener, “Hours,” impress upon the listener a patient splendor. The song feels like a slight elevation of her signature tranquility. The track also features violin from Molly Germer, who, while best known for her work with Alex G has shown up this year on releases from Slow Pulp and Frances Quinlan.

The EP’s first single, “Wasted” sees Tomberlin pushing her formula slightly, and integrating a lively percussion section. Its drum pattern feels homespun and hypnotic, making the song masquerade well as lighthearted fun, despite the turmoil within. It grapples with expression, whether it’s Tomberlin asking why her counterpart only says she’s cute when they’re wasted, or her asking directly “do you think this song’s sad?”

Perhaps the record’s core, “Floor,” a meditative and raw ballad that, with more of Germer’s violin, feels like some of the best work she’s done to date. It’s songs like this that solidify the reputation Tomberlin has accrued. She’s able to stir you, make you feel the swell in every song, but never so much that it feels overwrought. Tom Breihan, in his review of Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher, said that Tomberlin “ought to just become the fourth member of Boygenius at this point” and songs like “Floor” drive that point home. It’s as emotionally palpable and subtly epic as the peak of “Me & My Dog”

Projections may not be a full-length record, but it satisfies the need for new material and then some. Its songs are weighty and build upon the foundation that At Weddings set for them. It’s music that feels as verdant as the forest its art depicts, and it conjures the feeling of youthful freedom that such places inspire.

Disappointing / Average/ Good / Great / Phenomenal

Eric Bennett | @seething_coast

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