“it was a weird year then we made racecar.”
There are moments in bad love that are hard to swallow. They pinpoint moments in memory that are so specific that it feels uncomfortably intrusive–like listening in on a tense, 2 AM phone call.
“MHL Jesus” is a strong way to start. The vocals from Shannon Straney are soft, murmuring painful recollections and self-realizations: “I am not a child but my heart/ my heart needs to be reminded.” The accompanying keys are used beautifully here, triggering notes of melancholy at just the right moments. Leading into the rest of the six-track piece, it nails the ability to write about emotional vulnerability and paint scenes like “I found you at Susie’s / nursing a Miller High Life / I shoulda known”, or measure the without being cheesy and over simplified. It’s the hyper-specificity that strengthens the moment, thrusting Albany locals and Lark Street lurkers into the dimly lit space, sipping absent-mindedly at the bar stool next to her.
bad love explores the roles we play in the emotional rollercoaster of relationships and how they tweak us just a bit–enough to change the way we think, move and are seen. When it’s all said and done, there’s no way of stopping the gnawing midnight thoughts of guilt and self-pity (or subtle notes of bitterness) as you toss and turn at night. But in this piece, there’s no reluctance in laying that vulnerability out on the line. In “merry christmas (goodbye forever),” that proposition of revisiting ‘the way it was’ never really goes away: “Goodbye forever/ unless you change your mind.”
But there’s something bright that drifts throughout the rest of the EP, it’s there in layered choral vocals of “MHL Jesus”, the satisfying shouts and playful nod to the local scene and close knit friends that bring you pride and joy (“I’m for this county/ Ride for the county”) in the self-titled track or the upbeat tempo of “choker” –still weaving in and out with reminiscent wounds. “Friends say I’m changing too much/ they don’t know what I lost when you left/ When you’d had enough,” vocalist Dan LaFave sings.
The closing track “choker,” along with the “geoff gordon” and “bad love” have been dropped as singles periodically since June, and for an EP that has already been halfway released, bad love still feels new, fresh and necessary.
Grief has quite a few faces and loss (or even the fear of it) can gut you, but it’s not the end of the world. This work is just as much a soundtrack for post-heartbreak as it is for an end-of-the-tunnel triumph. As a whole, it’s utterly soothing. When you experience loss, what do you cling to? What is left and how do you move on? You just do–chin up, in your own way and on your own time.