Befitting the title Teeth Marks, S. G. Goodman’s latest release is all jagged edges. The emotions are raw, the subjects (opioid addiction, one-night stands, queer Southern love) are far from conventional country fare, the guitars riffs are stabby, and the music refuses to settle comfortably into a genre – Americana, punk and early 90s alt-rock all vie for the spotlight. Goodman aims to keep the listener on edge, making the emotional gut punches (and there are many) land that much harder. It’s a stunning, soul-baring piece of storytelling that should be remembered as a game-changer in the alt-country world.
The title cut, which leads off the album, is a love-at-first-night tale that only one half is buying into when the sun comes up – “It’s just like you to say something smart/Telling me how this shouldn’t break my heart, but it did.” Guitars simmer underneath as the post-coital buzz begins to wear off and the singer comes to realize that she’s the only one invested in this – “And no use saying that/Oh maybe in time/You’ll see things my way.” Affection finds a better day in “All My Love Is Coming Back to Me.” Jangly indie-rock guitars back up the singer, who finds herself rewarded for her patience – “Chased down the night the sun was holding onto/And I’ve kept the fire within my soul.” “Heart Swell,” with its guitar-echoed vocal refrain, recalls both the rush of new love and the longing that results from heartbreak – “Like an immigrant heart that keeps trying to get back home.”
All manner of broken folks populate Teeth Marks. “When You Say It,” one of the more country-inflected tunes on the record, shows a weariness after one too many failed stabs at romance – “Don’t know what is wrong with these two hearts/Have they been broke right from the start.” And “Work Until I Die” speaks up for those in an endless scramble for survival – “You get trapped in the rhythm/Time it flies.” Guitars and gang vocals get more frenetic as Goodman, in a nation full of people who feel like that they’re somehow just one lucky break way from being wealthy, spells out the truth that most of us are actually living – “You make the rich more rich/No it won’t be you/Pennies for your time and crumbs to chew.”
All of the above – love unrealized, corporate greed and human frailty – come together, devastatingly in the album’s two-part centerpiece, “If You Were Someone I Loved” and “You Were Someone I Loved.” The former is a pulsing rocker that asks why we’re able to turn our back to someone in crisis, both individually and on a societal scale – “No need for change/No cause for alarm/Well it’s not a needle in my baby’s arm.” That callousness crashes as the song fades into its companion, a heartbreaking elegy to an addict ignored one too many times. Goodman’s voice moves between a quiver and a wail throughout the album, but it’s the sole instrument on this track, trembling and spiritual as she sings to a loved one who’s fought, and lost, the battle of addiction – “The dirt now covers you up…But you were someone I loved.” The pair of songs is a searing indictment of both drug companies’ placement of profit above all else (“No I don’t see the man in the long white coat/Holding the poor up by their throats) and our collective refusal to help. And it encapsulates Goodman’s message across the record – get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s the only way to effect change.
Song(s) I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “If You Were Someone I Loved”/”You Were Someone I Loved” – crushingly sad to hear, but I’d be sadder if I didn’t.
Order Teeth Marks here: https://shop.sggoodman.net/
Check out tour dates on Goodman’s website: http://www.sggoodman.net/
The album was co-produced by S.G. Goodman, Drew Vandenberg, Matthew Rowan and Rafaela Hernandez at Chase Park Transduction Studios in Athens, GA; engineered by Kate Haldrup, Kyle Spence and Drew Vandenberg; and mastered by Sarah Register. Musicians on the album are S.G. Goodman on drums, guitar, and vocals; JoJo Glidewell on piano; Nick Harley on bass and guitar; S. Knox Montgomery on drums; Matthew Rowan on bass, drums, and guitar; Luke Schneider on guitar and pedal steel; Kyle Spence on drums; with photography by Ryan Hartley.