August 15, 2017

LP: Tall Friend - Safely Nobody's

Tall Friend's music is as beautiful as a sprout breaking through soil. 

Safely Nobody’s, Tall Friend’s debut album and second release on Exploding In Sound, opens up with a heart-wrenching skit. “Mother” is 30-seconds of a teary phone call that begins, “Charlie, it’s Mom,” over a simple plucked guitar. The voice comes through muffled for the rest of the recording, but the final words of “I love you so much” come in loud and clear. The call was presumably taken from primary songwriter Charlie Pfaff’s phone, and their willingness to bravely show private moments appears again and again on Safely Nobody’s. Throughout the album, Tall Friend explores the trauma of growing up around mental illness and the failure to be taught how to love with a simplicity and starkness that is arresting in its beauty. Part of the inheritance of such an upbringing is the anxious hope that your good intentions don’t get swallowed up by the bad habits you’ve learned from your family.

On standout song “Radio,” Pfaff speaks to the desperation of wanting close relationships and the fear you’ll drive them away, singing, “Goodbye is a swear word / Wash your mouth with soap / Sometimes I say dumb shit / Tomorrow you’ll forget I hope.” Track “KB” ends with “My dad watches storms like he’s looking in the mirror / I love you, could I make it any clearer.” These confessions unravel plainly over muted drums, guitar, and bass in a style that will feel familiar to fans of Vagabon or Adult Mom. At times, listening can almost feel intrusive, but Safely Nobody’s calming nature works wonders for assuaging any anxieties of your own. On “Oats,” the band plays an almost plucky tune as Pfaff explores how trauma can cause us to grow up before we should have to: “Mom calls from the hospital, 'Happy birthday now you’re all grown up' / 'But mom,' I tell her later, 'I have been grown since I was small.'” The song’s melody mirrors the circling bassline, making the words feel all the more self-evident and natural. There’s a security in being grown after all, in knowing you are capable. Ultimately, the record concludes with the hopeful idea that our demons can be used to help us grow. “Apoptosis, my cells are dark but they’re a part of me,” Pfaff concludes on “Small Space.” For those who remember nothing from Biology class, Google defines apoptosis as “the death of cells that occurs as a normal and controlled part of an organism's growth or development.” These dark things are a part of life, and dealing with them is how we grow. In laying out all their dark cells, Pfaff and the rest of Tall Friend make music that's as beautiful as a sprout breaking through soil.


Listen to Tall Friend on bandcamp.


Mo is a writer who can be spotted at the gig dancing like a squid. Follow him on twitter @sadgayfriendx. He also helps books shows at a Brooklyn house venue called The Bronze.