Album Of The Week

Album Of The Week: Slow Pulp Yard


It’s not that complicated. Three childhood friends — Henry Stoehr, Teddy Matthews, and Alex Leeds — grew up learning how to make music together and started a band. In college, they met Emily Massey, who clicked into place with them musically. They had an instinctual chemistry, grew into a loose and satisfying unit. Slow Pulp began in earnest. They released a couple EPs, moved from their Wisconsin hometowns to Chicago, gained some traction, dedicated themselves to life on the road.

Or maybe it’s a little complicated. When it came time to record their debut album, Slow Pulp were met with some challenges: Massey was diagnosed with Lyme disease and chronic mono, then had to move back to Wisconsin to take care of her parents after they were injured in a car accident. Then the pandemic happened. So Moveys, which came out in the fall of 2020, was finished remotely, and (I’d imagine) its songs turned out a bit quieter and more introspective than originally intended. On their early EPs, Slow Pulp slotted neatly into the poppy strain of shoegaze that’s been so popular as of late, but suddenly there were more scratchy acoustic ballads in the mix. And one of them, “Montana,” was the best song on the album.

Enter Yard, which embraces the moodier, more muted side of Moveys and is all the more successful because of it. I liked Moveys well enough — especially after seeing those songs live, when they opened for Alvvays last fall — but Yard feels like it’s on another level. It’s quieter and more even-keeled than Slow Pulp’s debut, and it feels more emotionally potent. Maybe some distance from the upheaval that led to Moveys means that these songs have slightly more perspective. There’s no grand narrative surrounding Yard, just great songs. It’s not necessarily a showy album, but it’s one that I keep inexplicably returning to, comforted by its gauze and sticky sweetness.

Part of the appeal is certainly Massey, whose delivery provides these songs with a soft and pleasurable dull ache. She spins out casually devastating lines like it’s nothing. Her lyrics are gutting on Yard, as she gets in her own head and gets in her own way. A lot of the songs on the album are about being an artist, filled with worry and indecision as to whether she’s doing right by herself or the people around her. On the title track, she brings us to her friend’s cabin, where she holed up writing a lot of these songs, isolated and focusing on her art to the detriment of her relationships: “I’ve been blinded by the reflection off the lake/ The neighbors hear me singing, I don’t care ’cause I’m much too baked/ The dogs are barking at the water/ I yelled they messed up my take/ I didn’t get much sleep ’cause I twitch/ Missed the volleyball game/ I’m a bitch, I’ve been a biiiitch,” she sings, stretching out that last word into an addictive descent into self-pity. Or on closer “Fishes,” where she feels scared by her own ambition, grateful but apprehensive: “Fishes mounted on a wall made out of glass/ Watching me cry to a screen, saying I hope that this lasts/ Try and fail and try and fail and try it all again.”

These are concerns that extend beyond life as a musician and into more existential hauntings: Do I deserve what I have? Am I being selfish, unfair to the people that I love? Slow Pulp sit in this discomfort, use texture and open space to let Massey’s voice linger and squirm. On “Carina Phone 1000,” she catches up with someone through a series of calls, but only sporadically and never enough: “You give me another chance/ Tell me I am the perfect friend/ How do I give that back?/ You wanna tell me that?” And then there’s “Broadview,” where Slow Pulp slip into yearning alt-country as Massey hopes that she’s not doomed to a solitary existence: “Am I wrong?/ Or is it okay to stay inside and out of love?/ Tell me I’m wrong/ I’m just gonna give it a try and hope that it’s enough.”

The slower songs on Yard are the beating heart of the album, expressions of Massey’s inner turmoil and discontent that are raw and deeply affecting. But I feel like I’m underselling how hard the band can rock out when they want to, which they do often enough throughout Yard: on the persistent and propulsive “Cramps,” or on “Worm,” which tangles itself into a knot of blown-out guitars. “Doubt” blossoms into a sunny, goofily infectious do-do-do-do chorus, and “MUD” careens into a layered headbanger. They strike a perfect balance between both sides of their sound on “Slugs,” a fuzzy blast of a jam that congeals around its self-fulfilling prophecy of a hook: “You’re a summer hit/ And I’m singing it.” There’s nothing overly complicated about “Slugs,” it just has a certain ineffable quality: quietly confident, a demonstration of the subtly capable force that Slow Pulp have become.

Yard is out 9/29 via Anti-.

Other albums of note out this week:

• Wilco’s Cousin
• Oneohtrix Point Never’s Again
• Animal Collective’s Isn’t It Now?
• Armand Hammer’s We Buy Diabetic Test Strips
• Blonde Redhead’s Sit Down For Dinner
• Jorja Smith’s Falling Or Flying
• Code Orange’s The Above
• Koyo’s Would You Miss It?
• La Force’s XO SKELETON
• Jlin’s Perspective mini-album
• Cherry Glazerr’s I Don’t Want You Anymore
• Maxo’s Debbie’s Son
• Harm’s Way’s Common Suffering
• Bad History Month’s God Is Luck
• Final Gasp’s Mourning Moon
• Woe’s Legacies Of Frailty
• Molly Burch’s Daydreamer
• Colin Miller’s Haw Creek
• Say She She’s Silver
• Equipment’s Alt Account
• Thank You, I’m Sorry’s Growing In Strange Places
• Ann Wilson’s Another Door
• Steven Wilson’s The Harmony Codex
• Ed Sheeran’s Autumn Variations
• KK’s Priest’s The Sinner Rides Again
• John P. Strohm’s Something To Look Forward To
• Oliver Tree’s ALONE IN A CROWD
• Filth Is Eternal’s Find Out
• Oh Land’s Loop Soup
• Modern Nature’s No Fixed Point In Space
• Del Water Gap’s I Miss You Already + I Haven’t Left Yet
• No-No Boy’s Empire Electric
• Luggage’s Hand Is Bad
• FEARING’s Destroyer
• Becky G’s Esquinas
• David Eugene Edwards’s Hyacinth
• Frightwig’s We Need To Talk…
• able machines’s Digital Precision
• The Howdies’ Howdies All Around
• Primordial’s How It Ends
• LP’s Love Lines
• Melenas’ Ahora
• Boy Named Banjo’s Dusk
• JOBS’ Soft Sounds
• Feid’s MOR, No Le Temas a La Oscuridad
• ’68’s Yes, and…
• The Atom Age’s The Atom Age
• pulses.’s It Wasn’t Supposed To Be Like This
• LANY’s a beautiful blur
• Grateful Dead’s Wake Of The Flood (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)
• Green Day’s Dookie: 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
• Meet Me @ The Altar’s Past // Present // Future (Deluxe)
• Jason Isbell’s Southeastern 10th anniversary deluxe reissue
• Various Artists’ Songs And Symphoniques: The Music Of Moondog
• Various Artists’ The Task Has Overwhelmed Us
• Defcee & Messiah Musik’s The Golem Of Brooklyn Original Soundtrack
• Wolves In The Throne Room’s Crypt Of Ancestral Knowledge EP
• Thanks For Coming’s What Is My Capacity To Love? EP
• Girl Scout’s Granny Music EP
• Career Woman’s Grapevine EP
• Private Hell’s Days Of Wrath EP
• hemlocke springs’ going…going…GONE! EP

We rely on reader subscriptions to deliver articles like the one you’re reading. Become a member and help support independent media!

more from Album Of The Week