October 28, 2014

LP: S - Cool Choices

We may never leave our beds but at least we have S to keep us company.

The last few weeks for me have been busy. Not in an unhappy way, necessarily, but between my birthday, attending shows, everyone else’s birthday (sup Libras), writing music, writing reviews, I am feeling on the burnt out side. My partner’s band is playing a show later and I am laying in bed with one leg over the covers, slumped just upwards enough to not be asleep. Too much fun is a real thing. But just because I want to pull the covers over my head and brood forever, doesn’t mean I have to do it alone. Enter: S’s Cool Choices.

S is Jenn Ghetto, who was in the nineties Seattle slowcore band Carissa’s Wierd. Previously, S was known as something of a “bedroom project”. Cool Choices is her fourth album as S but it's the first release with a full band, the first on Hardly Art, and the first produced by former Death Cab for Cutie member Chris Walla. Fortunately, this polishing doesn’t come at the expense of intimacy. Cool Choices finds a way to murmur agonies to your heart.

These mild strangulations resonate in the control of Ghetto’s voice. It doesn’t matter if the songs appear on the upbeat side like the electronic tracks “Tell Me” and album closer, “Let the Light In”, or the zippy acoustic lines of “Vampire”, Cool Choices is about real heartbreak. “Tell Me” harkens back to her second album, the incredibly titled Puking and Crying. It begins with stark tones that sound like an eighties video game before adding a warm humming synth. “I see in the sunlight / how it feels in the background / it is awfully dark here / and I can’t find my way out,” Ghetto confides, shifting from wistful to vulnerable. S traffics in pain, which is often unsophisticated only in the sense of its simplicity. On “Vampires”, a hopeful riff that conjures the image of a first morning light seen by those nocturnal beings is juxtaposed against the lyrics, “I am crazy and you are fucked up”. The fundamentalism explores this duality of harsh and muted.

But, of course, S’s bread and butter, is the numbing, quiet, drowning tracks where there’s no attempt to even pass as okay. “Brunch,” subverts the brightness quality of “Vampire”, and makes it gutting. The familiarity of the aforementioned track induces a sort of nostalgia so that when Ghetto reflects, “I wish you hadn’t called last night / and talked about North Carolina / I know about the girl you fucked / and here I think I might throw up,” you find yourself rifling through all the desperate see-sawing of past relationships. “Pacific” begins with a hint of white noise, before a somber, threadbare piano is methodically produced. Like a more attainable Grouper, Ghetto continues bleakly on the track, “I’ll find a home on the floor of the ocean / I won’t have to see you with someone else there”. These lines hit hard and I wonder if I will ever leave this bed. But if S is there to keep me company is it really so bad?


Listen to S on Soundcloud.

Madeline Meyer, a Los Angeles transport to Philadelphia. She writes screenplays and plays guitar and sings in Littler. Her favorite things are olives, board games, and dad jokes.