“Deny yourself out of necessity/ Starve the essence of one’s being,” Clique’s PJ Carroll sings near the midpoint of the Philadelphia band’s new album, Burden Piece. “Ascetic ritual to feel something/ In the absence of sustenance, you find meaning.” That’s quite a life philosophy to abide by, but Clique spend much of their sophomore album doing that sort of soul-searching, withholding what they want from themselves because they feel like they don’t deserve it, and hoping that restriction will act as a solution. Example: On “Wishful Thinking,” the narrator takes an interest in someone — “I think I’ve seen you around/ And I’d like to hear your voice” — but refuses/is unable to engage, instead just asking “Will someone please just turn the volume up?”
Clique’s ennui is matched with the same sort of downtrodden, bruised rock they traded in on their 2014 debut, but the band has gotten more confident in their approach. Their songs still rarely stretch past the two-minute mark, but sound more ambitious and complex; they often come across as incomplete thoughts, dissipating away before building to any kind of emotional climax, but that structure feels intentional, a mirror for the listless mode the group operates in.
“No, I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with me,” Carroll says on another track. “A hollow shell of the things I hoped that I could be.” Burden Piece is weighed down by the feeling of, well, being a burden, but the band seem determined to not drag everyone else down with them. Instead, they just make songs that embrace that sad feeling for two minutes or less, hopefully as a way to move past it. Listen below.