Slow Pulp Wanders Down the Spiraling Road of Life in "Yard"
Photo: Alexa Viscius
Slow Pulp's Yard is a companion to loneliness, speaking on love, self, and the winding road of life with the empathetic combination of a sharp tongue and soft eyes. The guitars phase between grungy distortion and folk-inspired, acoustic ease, embracing the Wisconsin-bred, Chicago-based band's retro indie rock spunk while the lyrics broaden their emotional palette.
“Gone 2” opens the album with such duality; though the tone is heavy with bitterness, it stays determined. Lead singer Emily Massey waltzes across the soundscape with her iconic melodic arcs that sweep from sullen lows to breezy highs, encompassing the band’s dreamy gloom in every line. The gutting question of the lyrics hangs in the air like a sword, “Could you love me tomorrow or is it gone?” It quietly hangs onto hope through the sweetness of the melody, while the arrangement trudges through moody chord changes.
Then, Slow Pulp winds us through the familiar path of singles that originally introduced listeners to Yard, starting with the deceptively upbeat “Doubt.” The indie rock track serves sunniness with a twist, infusing just the right amount of acidity into the angsty nostalgia that ripples throughout the grungy chords and lightweight distortion. “Doubt” lingers on a feeling even while it moves on, launching us seamlessly into “Cramps,” which is contrastingly unashamed of its desperation, dripping in lust and jealousy and literal feminine rage. Massey spoke to the writing process, sharing with triple j that it “came out of a jam at practice right after [she] had proclaimed that [her] period cramps were particularly bad that day.” In the lyrics, she creates this metaphorical character, “Heather,” who has all the characteristics she felt she was lacking. That out-of-breath irritation seethes in the glitchy orchestration of the arrangement.
Next, “Slugs” coaxes us to the precipice of comfort and uncertainty, exploring a new love that feels so healthy it’s almost too good to be true. It’s a twilight summer love song, dark around the edges but romantic at its core. The title track “Yard” lands listeners somewhere in the sonic universe of Ben Folds, Fiona Apple, and Tori Amos, centered around a cyclical piano. It wanders through a nostalgic lane of spiraling; the bullheaded bitterness of being a teenager. Massey sings, “They put the house for sale sign up / didn’t think I cared that much … It’s on me.” The live treatment of the acoustic piano gives the impression that this song was plunked out stream-of-conscious style and recorded in someone’s childhood home, saturating “Yard” with wistfulness.
“Carina Phone 1000” is ornately decorated with strings that echo the knot-in-your-throat, brushed-aside heartache Massey battles while she sings, “I knew it wasn’t just in my head… that’s life, I guess.” Meanwhile, it equates the memory of someone to a pesky parasite, ladening the whole track in musical static. The crooning sigh of pedal steel and harmonicas add a Western flair to the brooding optimism of “Broadview.” It embraces the Midwest roots of Slow Pulp, fusing folk and indie rock. Finally, “Fishes” closes out Yard, a stirring commentary on self-worth that lingers sweetly on the mind as the track ends with the sounds of distant commotion and video game pings.
Listen to "Yard" below: