Turnip King grabs our attention on their debut album Laika.
Over two-and-a-half minutes into the first track of Turnip King’s debut Laika, the quiet and confident voice of Lucia Arias shoves her way through the fuzz to deliver her first words of the record – “I want to make myself clear,” she utters over the relentless strings of her bandmates. Yet, as listeners find, this spirited attitude is fragile beginning to crumble around Arias. “I want to sound confident / no, I want to be clear…am I making myself clear,” she sings struggling to find her footing over the wall of sound shaking beneath her. However, as the track settles and its noise fades into dust, the band lays the groundwork of their first record. Starting at a spring pace, Turnip King grabs and forces attention as they set the tone for the rest of their debut.
Up until now, the New Yorkers' only previous released work was their 2013 EP Moon Landing?, whose distortion and grit soon gained the group the label of shoegaze that has stuck with them ever since. I’m not going to argue that this marker is unfounded. Upon first listen, Turnip King sounds like a shoegaze band; however, analyzing this record on such a broad descriptor only diminishes the meticulous work and sound-scaping layered into this album. Although lyrics find themselves weaved in and out every song on Laika, it soon becomes clear that words only play a supporting role on this record. As each track’s lyrics move through almost tonally untouched, the group’s instrumental work remains ever changing – fluidly wrapping around Arias or Cal’s words, supporting their meaning and playing off of their intentions.
Vertically, the album’s structure is complexly arranged as it repeatedly moves, continuously re-organizing itself through each track’s progression; yet, as skillfully crafted as this layering is the real talent shows in Turnip King's song structure, or rather its lack of structure. From the glossy droning moments of “Metonymy” to the brash screeching breaks of “Dead Flowers,” not one track on this record fits into the ordinary structure of a song. The band experiments in their arranging to the point that parts of the record nearly sound like improv; but as unpredictable as this can be, Turnip King still shows their ability to reel everything in. Through Laika, the group makes a conscious effort to push their boundaries yet they never overpower them – creating a sort of invisible, de facto structure that subverts our traditional concepts of songwriting. Exploring and moving through the confines of their sound, their debut opens up an incredible amount of freedom and possibility for later releases. Whether we decide to label it shoegaze or not, Laika gives an outstanding first impression and I can’t wait to hear what Turnip King comes up with next.
Listen to Turnip King on bandcamp.
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Amy Garlesky is a philosophy/political science student and freelance writer based in Cleveland, OH and Burlington, VT. Follow her ramblings on twitter @ayygarl.