Wisconsin-bred and Chicago-based band Slow Pulp – Emily Massey (vocals/guitar), Alexander Leeds (bass), Theodore Mathews (drums), and Henry Stoehr (guitar) – have just released their self-produced debut album, Moveys, out into the world.Having heard a track from the album on DKFM Shoegaze Radio late one night I knew I had to investigate. It’s an album borne from the times we are living in. Recorded from locked down homes across the states, it creates a sense of warmth and togetherness which draws you in like an open fire.
The album opens on a glorious picked acoustic guitar and Emily’s lilting voice. ‘New Horse’ is a perfect introduction to this record. Its both light and dark, weightless and heavy. When the counter vocal line and fuzzed out bass kick in the song takes us away. In my head somewhere snow covered and remote.
All too soon the song is over and we are in to the intro to ‘Trade It’.
There’s a Big Thief meets Soccer Mommy vibe to this song. It moves along with a knowing swagger. This has the sound of a songwriter who has worked and honed every line to a keen edge. The song slowly builds as we go with an insistent drumbeat working hand in hand with the bass to carry us to the final word.
This leads us neatly into ‘Idaho’, the most claustrophobic of all the tracks on the album. It feels like we are trapped in Emily’s thoughts as she wrestles with her demons seeking some sort of self-belief. “I’m losing all the while” she sings as if resigned to her fate.
The track I heard on DKFM Shoegaze Radio is next and it is actually called ‘Track’. This feels like some great lost nineties’ slacker classic. I love how the band play with dynamics bringing instruments in and out, creating space then filling it again keeping us on our toes. It’s no wonder it caught my ear.
The grungy and punchy thrash of ‘At it Again’ keeps us in nineties’ territory. This is another two minute song like, the gorgeous opener, ‘New Horse’ but it feels just right. The guitars mellow as Emily’s voice soften towards the end bringing the song to neat close.
‘Channel 2’ features Alexander on vocal duty delivering a study in shoegaze whilst Henrys guitar whirls in a J Mascis like chaotic cascade. I can see this track getting a lot of airplay. A great chorus coupled with killer guitar is always a recipe for success.
The pace and tone changes completely with the instrumental ‘Whispers (In the Outfield)’. The track is so unlike anything else on the album yet it’s right at home and feels wholly natural as a stepping stone to the next song.
‘Falling Apart’ is a ballad sung by Emily to Emily. Couched in wonderfully chilled instrumentation we find her berating herself “Why don’t you go back to falling apart. You were so good at that.” The band giving her space to weave her magic amongst the slippery drums and elastic bass. We also hear a rueful violin trading lines making the song complete. This is really special songwriting.
In a similar vein, ‘Montana’ takes us on a tour of Emily’s’ inner voice. The self-doubt and critical introspection weigh heavy over this song. Emily says of the track, “This song is about moving beyond defining myself in terms of my mental health. I’ve been working through this over the last couple of years and this song is a reflection of this process and where I am now. ‘Montana’ was the first song we finished recording for the album. Henry’s early demo was kind of heavy and distorted, and when we went to play it together for the first time, it came out a lot slower and cleaner. Our friend Willie Christianson wrote and recorded the slide guitar and harmonica parts.”
‘Montana’ feels like a natural close for the album but then, right out of leftfield, comes ‘Movey’. A sample filled funky instrumental jam to lighten the mood and remind us it’s all going to be ok.
Slow Pulp have delivered a breath-taking debut album against all odds. The band have seen more than their fair share of struggles yet have chosen not to be buried by them but to embrace them and turn them into something truly beautiful and life affirming. If that isn’t a lesson for all of us, I don’t know what is.
Moveys is available from all good independent record shops on a few cool coloured variants. The album is also out to buy from the Slow Pulp Bandcamp page.
Photo by Alec Basse.