By Maria Lubanovic, Staff Writer
[Tiny Engines; 2017]
Key Tracks: “Say You”, “Flight Instinct”
Editorial You is the second full-length album of Strange Relations, lead by Casey Sowa on vocals and drums and her girlfriend Maro Helgeson on bass and synth. The album is full of bass and synth partnerships, and floats the line between indie-rock and punk.
The album relies on dissonant singing and simple bass and synth rhythms. This is obvious is the first track, “Evidence”, which sets the mood for the whole album. It features a synth and bass line that complement each other well, and fit comfortably under the shrill vocals. If you don’t like the first track, give up now – the whole album is like this.
“Say You” opens with bass and singing, and slowly builds into a more upbeat and filled out track as lead singer Casey Sowa sneers and says, “listen to your body.” The music moves through a few different styles and lines, but it ultimately makes this track one of the only standouts on the album. “LIN” and “Orbit” run back to back to each other and bring a sort of continuity between the musical and lyrical themes, namely Sowa’s singing style. The bass and the synth are solid and create swirling soundscapes. The dissonant singing detracts from what is already there, and this sort of attempt at “edge” just becomes grating. As a reminder, this isn’t even halfway through the album.
“NBE” is synth driven with softer singing, which takes the backseat until Sowa gets into sections where she wails. The drumming and synth have an urgency but switch back into a warmer, bubbling synth. Most of this album has great background instrumentals, almost to the point where you almost wish that it was more of the focus.
“Flight Instinct” is lyrically the best on the album, with a dynamic bass line and synth combo. It is the best use of Sowa’s unique voice, with “it would be easier if you don’t struggle” playing under her as she belts. It almost seems like a struggle between herself, and it eventually winds back down into a soft bass line.
The last four tracks are short bursts of various styles of indie-rock and punk. “Sure” has the most rhythmically different synth line, but then moves back into the dissonance that the album so frequently relies on. “Ignore” features a guitar-heavy style that doesn’t really match the rest of the album, but carries a punk feel that has been missing. “Spit” sounds like it was going to be softer and more subdued, but then spins into lyrics that seem to spit “you actually like a life-sized cardboard cutout” and is backed by the heaviest guitar and bass on the whole album.
The album ends with “Long Haul”, asking if ‘you are in for the long haul,’ which may have been an appropriate opener rather than “Evidence”. Again, the instrumentals are pretty great, but the brevity of the track and the abrupt ending makes the track seem incomplete, and is not a strong ending for the album.
It isn’t awesome. It’s just okay. It has some shining moments, but to find them you have to dig through a lot of dirt and dissonant singing. It’s worth at least one listen, especially if you are a huge fan of synth and bass.