Taking a Bite Out of Heartbreak
A short year after her widely-acclaimed debut, San Francisco native Sarah Bethe Nelson has officially released her sophomore album, Oh, Evolution, via Burger Records. The LP lives up to the grungy, California garage rock vibes of Fast Moving Clouds, while demonstrating the growth and journey of the young singer-songwriter. Although her debut drew heavily from the ’90s — namely lo-fi and slowcore — like the famous Codeine album Frigid Stars, her newest release stems more from indie-pop, drawing inspiration from the light ’60-’70s bubblegum pop style off of which other bands like The 1975 thrive. Even The Weeknd, one of the more prominent artists of this decade, has embraced such a sound in his recent album. Listeners want sad and broody music, but they also want to be able to bob their heads to it. This transition in sound shows where Nelson is at as an individual, and her eight new songs showcase exactly what she’s been working on, along with what she does best.
The first track, titled “Hazy,” opens with a minimal yet upbeat guitar riff, evoking Best Coast’s early albums. Nelson croons about being left, asking not to be forgotten and, in the end, actually calls herself crazy. Her stake in love and ripping it apart is apparent from the first song, and that overall vibe is seen throughout the album. Although a soft vocalist, Nelson is able to propel forward and excite listeners because of her experience as a guitarist and a songwriter. She has a really good ear for ensuring that her voice is both clear and distinct. One of the biggest problems with bands coming out of this genre is that they lack originality — a lot of it. Nelson, who kept it short and sweet with her album, is a diamond in the rough.
The next track, “Evolution,” continues with an upbeat bass beat behind strong, rigid power chords. While once again talking about the end of a relationship, Nelson is able to translate her feelings into sound thanks to the help of talented band members Rusty Miller, Garrett Goddard and Ela Jaszckak. With an apt title, Nelson sings about coming to a crossroads and simply having to evolve. Her recognition of having to move on, especially in the second song of the album, shows the strength of the writer. While this might be a sad album, there is no song that jumps out as being a pity party. The lyrics have true originality, which sets the singer apart from the many lo-fi bands of the late 2000s. It’s a breath of fresh air to hear someone be so open, angry and blatantly unapologetic.
“I Don’t Care” is another indie rock banger adorned with powerful lyricism. “One step forwards, and two steps back, you want me to love you and then you attack,” Nelson croons. By the halfway mark of the album, the tone switches slightly from upbeat to darker and more ominous. The beginning of “Sugar Factory” is hands down one of the best moments of the album. The best part about it is that it’s not overdone; it’s a beautiful transition and the song does not come in slow at all.
Other tracks deserving of honorable mention are “Face the Waves,” which dabbles in acoustics and synth-wave, and the album closer, “Deadbolt,” which is incredibly reminiscent of Red House Painters with a twist. Oh, Evolution is ethereal, raw and relatable. No part of this album will be boring to a listener. If the craftsmanship and artistry behind the music aren’t enough, the fire in Nelson’s heart that she is able to work into her lyrics will surely draw listeners in.