Slow Pulp – Yard
Every year, there’s a “Song of the Summer” debate, but I can’t wait to skip ahead to the music of autumn. Growing up in the Northeast, a kind of melancholy started to settle around everyone in mid-October, knowing that roughly eight months of snow and bad sledding were on the (depressingly low) horizon, and I’ve always enjoyed finding music to match that mood. This year’s fall jam is the new album from Slow Pulp. The Wisconsin-via-Chicago band (speaking of two places that know the late-autumnal blues) is releasing their moody latest, Yard, just in time to reflect on the last vestiges of summer and ponder what’s ahead.
Yard’s first single, “Slugs,” dives headfirst into the dog days malaise of late August with the realization that summer crushes end – “But when it, it all ends again/What if I tell you that/You’ll keep playing in my head.” A rhythmic chugging, based on chords that guitarist Henry Stoehr composed for a long-ago song written for a sixth-grade crush, give way to fuzzed out guitars and a Labor Day goodbye – “Trust in all the things I never said/I’m sorry I haven’t been honest.”
Slow Pulp is one of the increasingly rare indie bands not centered on the “auteur” concept, but hews closer to the genuine ideal of a band, one which operates at a very DIY level – guitarist Henry Stoehr produced, engineered and mixed Yard, the band members all have a hand in songwriting, and lead singer/guitar player Emily Massey’s vocals were recorded by her father Michael, an experiment born out of necessity during the recording of 2020’s Moveys. Father (a musician himself) and daughter felt the process worked so well that it was brought back for Yard, even if it didn’t always go smoothly, according to the piano-led title track – “Their dogs are barking at the water/I yelled they messed up my take.” “Gone 2” (a second attempt at what would eventually become the album’s first track) is a languid look at trying (and falling) to connect – “Could you want me tomorrow/Or is it gone.” “Doubt” is a low-key rocker that finds the shaky narrator willing to try again, with absolutely no confidence in their success – “Can you fix this I think I’m ready to commit/Come watch me swing it and miss it.” And the wistful, guitar-layering “MUD” seems to have Massey on the verge of admitting defeat – “It’s just too bad I fell/I’ll be honest.”
The most autumnal moment on the record is “Broadview.” The tune, full of harmonica, banjo and pedal steel, is melancholy in the vein of Harvest-era Neil Young, while Massey, in one of this year’s best lines, decides that she just needs a break – “Am I wrong/Or is it okay to stay inside/And out of love” (anyone who’s spent more than a little time on dating apps can relate to this self-mandated isolation). At Yard’s end, the dreamy, simmering “Fishes,” which was written during such a period of isolation while listening to Lucinda Williams (“Do you think Lucy understands”) finds Massey trying to suss out her own self-worth – “I wanna catch myself this time/Like I know/That I’m the prize.” It’s just warm enough of a thought to keep the autumnal blues in check.
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Broadview” – just a gorgeously sad song, and one of the year’s best.
Yard was produced, engineered and mixed by Henry Stoehr (vocal engineering and editing by Michael Massey) and mastered by Greg Obis. All songs written by Slow Pulp – Henry Stoehr (guitar, piano, keyboards, bass, auxiliary percussion), Emily Massey (vocals, guitar, bass), Alex Leeds (bass, guitar, vocals) and Teddy Mathews (drums, auxiliary percussion, bass, guitar). Additional musicians include Molly Germer (violin), Willie Christianson (harmonica, banjo), Peter Briggs (pedal steel), Tyler Bussey (banjo) and Sachi DiSerafino (additional production on “Slugs”).
Go here to order Yard (out September 29): https://slowpulp.limitedrun.com/
Check out tour dates here: https://www.slowpulp.com/tour