This album makes me want to throw up every time I listen to it (in the best way possible, of course). On her debut full-length, artist to watch Abi Reimold taps into something retching and visceral — every song is a great heaving motion, an upending unrest. “My heart tells me I do too much,” she expels on the opening track. “I push myself ’til it gets stuck in cycles of not holding back, to dwelling on the things I lack.” When we feel ill or off-balanced, we tend to do one of two things: lash out at the people around us, or retreat into ourselves in the hopes that we don’t hurt anyone else. Both modes are on display throughout Wriggling, a constant see-saw of pain and isolation.
Reimold works in eminently quotable and wordy lyrics that lurch perfectly along to and echo every uneasy note. “Shopping for your brand of darkness — exalt it!” she declares on “Feed,” which dissects a parasitic and unhealthily symbiosis. “Glorify it and fuel your flaws/ A force in facing all my wrongness is asking this: Am I a vacuum in your absence?” She manifests anxiety and desperation, loneliness and depression into hulking beasts of songs, made up of raging screams and scathing guitars and drums that feel like they’ll bowl you right over.
At times, her cadence almost reaches the speed and temperament of rap: “It’s all just another cliché that doesn’t resonate with me/ Try to induce more delay, but we could crash and it would be okay,” she spouts off on “Machine,” a song that sees her throwing up her hands and realizing that life is best at getting in the way of what you want. “There is no scheme, there is no plan, we grow where our seeds happen to land.” “Clouded” also keeps up a rapid meter, its distant text message notifications and queasiness evoking a drunken night of trying to block out the world but having it forced upon you regardless. This one builds to a cacophony of noise and a biting hook: “How can you be my refuge when we’re both full of refuse?“
A recurring motif in Reimold’s writing is blood, represented as a pooling and unstoppable force. It’s something that’s carried over from the very first line of “Morning,” the opening track on her 2014 Forget EP. It comes up again on “Stain” (“I’ll be the blood if you’ll be the stain/ We’ll wake in the morning to feel the same pain”) and “Vessel” (“Could I let you cut that deep? Allow myself to feel such need?”) and on “Won’t Clot,” the blistering closer that’s about exactly what it sounds like: the wound that won’t heal, that will not scab over: “My words bite my heal/ Stopped dead in tracks of red, the kind that won’t congeal/ These feet are slipping inside soaking socks/ I thought I could run but now I know that it won’t clot.”
For all of its messiness and fatalist tendencies, Wriggling never feels impossibly bleak. It’s a purging of some very dark stuff, but there’s enough humor and self-awareness to keep the record from folding in on itself. Catharsis is an important drive of music; the feeling of emotion earned, not just hinted at or skimmed over. Wriggling more than earns its passionate centerpieces — it’s by far one of the most masterful albums (and debuts!) of the year.
Listen via The Fader below.