Review: Further Away by Cry Babe
Written by Ned Tilbrook on July 2, 2020
FFO: Sleater-Kinney, 2:54, Mitski, Dilly Dally
This Friday, July 3rd, local indie-punk favourites Cry Babe release their eagerly-awaited debut album Further Away. Following on from 2019 EP Soft Honk, Further Away is a dark, atmospheric, and bold album that represents exciting release from an exciting band. This is, of course, because of the nine new Cry Babe tracks each of which is an engrossing sonic journey filled with thumping, inventive, beats and exalted, operatic vocals. But it is also because the new album also displays the growth and maturation of the band as the marvellous creativity and adventurousness evident in Cry Babe’s 2019 single ‘A Romance of Many Dimensions’, recorded for Drunk Dial #5, is in further evidence here.
The album starts with ‘I’ve Been Small’: a lone bass provides the intro and then singer Anaïs enters the fray with vocals that are deep yet retain a light, airy touch. Slowly the sound fills out for an overpowering chorus, before the layers fall seamlessly away and the song is stripped back to a bass drone, sparse drums, and vocals. This deft use of loud-quiet dynamics is a feature of the album. The next track, ‘Okay For Us’, pairs the omnichord with a satisfyingly pounding beat and an emotive, airy vocal line intense with the refrain: “I let myself off easy sometimes”. ‘Okay For Us’ is an emblematic display of Cry Babe’s developing sound: while it retains the almost playful tone of their debut EP, there is a hefty, shadowy edge underneath that anchors the music. Bassist Maddie says this was the hardest on the album to write, taking three months to do so: “It represents a period where we were transitioning from mostly having Anaïs write the songs and present them to the rest of us to more collaborative songwriting.”
The fourth track, ‘I Don’t Love You’ features a prominent and instantly danceable bassline as Maddie and drummer Rose infuse this song with an infectious and hopeful rhythm, allowing Anaïs to lift the song with breezy vocals and the refrain “I don’t love you, but I want to.” The lyrics allude to a need for self-love and they are Anaïs’ favorite on the album: “we wrote that song collaboratively, that lyric came up when we were in the car in California, zooming down the highway in [Anaïs’ car] Franklin! It really captures the journey that we have all made while making music together, this journey of self-love and deepening friendship. While it sounds like the lyric is maybe about a love interest, we really wrote this song about the struggle of learning to love and accept yourself in order to grow.”
After a separate intro with a sparse instrumental post-rock feel, Wasted’ comes straight in with a choppy, persistent guitar line as a sweeping, climbing vocal line enters and the bass rapidly jumps to the fore in the chorus as the lyric ‘just be patient’ is repeated. The instruments then slip away for a moment as the blistering singing are centered with the line ‘Do you even know what it feels like to be wasted/wasted away for you?’ Smoothly the sound fills out again as the instrumentation regroups and help builds Anaïs’ soaring vocals to a conclusion. Like many of the songs on this album ‘Wasted’ is substantial and ominous yet ultimately builds to an uplifting conclusion; such turns show just how wonderfully creative the results of the band’s collaborative songwriting has been. Another song which shows similar tendencies is the penultimate track ‘Catch Me’, the first single released from Further Away. Built around an echoing bassline ‘Catch Me’ is song which captures a contrast between dark and playful, with the refrain ‘catch me, catch me/I’m falling apart immediately’ followed by an ecstatic burst from the omnichord.
The album’s concluding track, ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’ is the favorite track of all three members of the band, with Maddie describing it as “the most ‘Cry Babe’ Cry Babe song yet”. Though it starts out with a scalding guitar line and a sense of slow assertion, a heavy atmosphere soon settles as the narrator begins walking home alone in the dark: ‘I’m scared of walking home/my mom said not so/and I’m scared of getting there/I’ve got nothing in my bag.’ Of these lyrics, which speak to the entrenched and structural oppression that means women and queer people experience, Maddie says: “The first time I really heard these lyrics was when we were recording this song, and I think I literally had tears in my eyes.” Such a reaction is entirely unsurprising: the song masterfully makes the listener feel as though they are there, with the narrator, a sense of fear dragging itself more thoroughly into the track as it develops, building to a final chorus rife with tension as the lyrics ‘someone’s watching me, watching me/in the dark where I can’t see’ are repeated. This most Cry Babe of Cry Babe songs, with its clear message grounded in lived experience, is a fitting climax to the album. With the knowledge that this album represents the transition towards the three members learning to creatively collaborate and truly defining their sound as a collective, there is every reason to be even more excited to watch out for what Cry Babe do next.
The above picture was taken at Cry Babe’s show at KPSU last November
Further Away is available on digital download and limited-edition cassette from Friday, July 3rd