By Justin Cudahy, Columns Editor
[Joy Void; 2018]
Key Tracks: “Happen”, “Wrong”, “Interstate 95”
We’ve come to the point where whenever you hear the term “indie rock”, it can mean anything. With accessibility to music software becoming more and more easier, it seems like there has been an influx of independent artists who have emerged, many who end up falling in the “indie rock” category more as a crutch than anything else. Not many artists are able to transcend this form of typecasting – unless you are Erik Phillips. Armed with a guitar, piano, microphone, minimal drum kit, some buddies and an iPhone, Phillips shows off their best Elliot Smith impression with their latest project, One.
One’s opening track, “Happen”, is eerily beautiful—an anxious commentary on life inspired by the time Phillips had driven past a tractor-trailer wreck on their way across Interstate 95. Dreamy and simplistic instrumentals match Phillip’s whispery vocals in a way that creates this feeling of quietness, almost as if the artist is trying not to wake up their neighbors. It only gets quieter from there as the album progresses. “Wrong” follows up on similar themes from the opening track, this time accompanied by a more laid-back, wavy instrumental with a whining guitar riff that is satisfying to listen to.
Unfortunately, the album does lose a tiny bit of its charm about halfway through since, as a listener, you’ll begin to feel like you’ve already heard this song before. Phillips does try to keep things a bit interesting, whether it’s throwing some string instruments into a track (“Coming”) or giving their voice a break with an almost Pink Floyd-esque instrumental toward the end of the record (“Secret”).
Production wise, One is sub-par. While it is miles better than their last project, 2015 (back when they went by Cat Be Damned), the album still feels very raw in its sound. Drowned vocals are an issue that arises in a few instances, which is honestly more of a feat given the quiet nature of the album. The sound of guitar string scratches will slowly engrain itself into your brain the more times you listen to the LP, which is a very minor, yet frustrating flaw. Sure, Phillips could pull the “lo-fi” card and use it as an excuse to reason these creative decisions, but that still won’t change the sound. Criticizing something like this is tough, given the limited resources the artist had at their disposal while recording. If you’re looking at this from an amateur standpoint, then something like that is understandable.
However, Erik Phillips isn’t an amateur by any means and deserves to be held to higher standards, given the fact that they’re a great artist. Hopefully, with the release of this album, they’ll get the recognition that they deserve.