Monday, 6 November 2017

Album Review: Survival Pop by Worriers (by Robyn Pierce)

If there’s something the world needs right now, it’s some good music to help us deal with the daily political scandals, the ubiquitous prejudice, and the nearly constant threat of nuclear apocalypse plaguing humanity. So, when I first saw the name of the new album from New York-based band Worriers, I thought of a lifeline thrown out to save someone drowning at sea. Survival Pop was cast into the expanse on 29 September by SideOneDummy Records and it is my total jam at the moment. I am a new convert to Worriers, and part of the reason I was drawn to the band is because it is the solo songwriting project of Lauren Denitzio, who is a feminist and outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ+ community within the American and global punk scene. I think the scene is doing well to create more space and opportunity to talk about issues of inclusion, identity, and equality, and bands like Worriers really help to drive the conversation. So, perhaps Worriers isn’t only promising ‘survival’ but hinting at a possible way forward too.

Survival Pop opens with ‘My 85th Rodeo’, beginning with some grave and meditative piano chords and Denitzio’s formidable vocals. But, the tone quickly shifts and the song picks up a strong jiving beat, with some wonderful guitar picking laid on top and a dreamy bass line thrown in for good measure. This opener offers us the album’s first suggestion for surviving the modern era when Denitzio sings, “Smile at the worst of things, laugh when I hate everything”. ‘Not Your Type’ is a well-worked pop punk song about living up to others’ expectations and feeling as though there is a pre-cast mold you’re meant to fill but never will. ‘Possibility’ is an absolute joy of a song, bursting with the positive potential described in its title. The strength of Worriers’ songwriting lies in the fantastic balance between more poppy elements like the background ‘ooh, oohs’ of ‘Possibility’, and the song’s artful, intricate guitar parts. ‘Gaslighter’ may be the best song on the album; it’s certainly a strong contender with its infectious guitar hook and singalong chorus. The beginning of ‘What We’re Up Against’ starts so similarly to The Lippies song ‘Hot Air Balloon’ that the first time I heard it I was taken by surprise. It’s a really jaunty and upbeat song about not giving up, despite being up against it.

‘Future Me’ is another standout track off the album with a strong, engaging melody. In this song, Denitzio interrogates her past experiences which haunt her present life. ‘Self Esteemed’ jolts you out of this self-reflection with some crisp drum beats and possibly the most singalongable chorus on Survival Pop. This song speaks so directly to me, with all its reflection on self confidence issues, that I think it’s my personal favourite. ‘No Thanks’ offers you a two-fer, with a bass-driven first half and guitar-laden second half. ‘Glutton (Reprise)’ returns to the intricate guitar work of the first couple tracks, while ‘WTF is sleep’ introduces some drowsy fuzz in a song about insomnia and anxiety. ‘Best Fear / Worst Fantasy’ takes aim at homophobia and transphobia, speaking plainly about the burden that homosexual and transgender people carry in having to constantly justify and explain their existence and identity to others. Denitzio proudly proclaims, “You can't disarm me with words that I chose for myself, can't force upon me the judgement of anyone else. I'm not the problem but a greater fantasy. Don't know what you're imagining, your worst fear sets a fire in me”. ‘Open Heart’ brings a strong close to the album with some rousing drum beats and a pledge to be open to the potential for positive change despite the real possibility of getting hurt.

Survival Pop offers more than just ‘survival’ or ‘pop’. These songs are not only catchy and immediately likeable, they are also well-written, interesting, tight, and wonderfully self-assertive. Denitzio probes into complex and personal issues that are not dealt with by a lot of other bands, and what she’s created here with Worriers are some of my favourite songs released this year. My first instinct concerning this album wasn’t far off; Survival Pop does offer a kind of lifeline, something to beat back the tide of anxiety, frustration and isolation that inevitably seeps into everyone’s life at one time or another. It does this by presenting the listener with Denitzio’s own process of dealing with these issues, reminding us that we’re not alone and that we have the strength to push on.

Stream and download Survival Pop here:

Like Worriers here:

This review was written by Robyn Pierce.

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