Punk energy and woke deliverance
Psychologists say unmet expectations are the basis of most relationship problems. The solution? Don’t set any. That’s how one should approach Grind, the latest genre-bending album by underground trio A Deer A Horse.
Grind is one of those albums that, after listening, would cause uptight, old-school parents to say “This isn’t music! What is wrong with you kids nowadays?” But in actuality, it perfectly captures the cathartic energy and thoughts of today’s youth. Christening themselves as “Brooklyn’s own dirtbags,” A Deer A Horse does a fantastic job of capturing several different types of energy on every track contained within Grind. Grind shows that making music doesn’t necessarily have to be about masterful musicianship or studied vocals. Grind proves that when there is a story to tell, big things can happen with a healthy dose of grimy distortion, a little bit of character and a ton of fight.
The first track “Bitter” begins with a screeching, mid-tempo call and response between the low and high registers of an electric guitar that continues throughout the song and is carried by a repetitive bassline. The lyrics are not sung, but delivered in more of a cartoonish rap style, incorporating chants and delightfully terrifying, monstrous growls while exploring the full range of the vocalist Angela Phillips, often in the same line.
On the band’s Bandcamp page, Phillips shared that “This song comes from my lifelong experience as a fat person constantly being given unsolicited advice on how to lose weight from people who have always naturally been slender.” “Bitter” is full of therapy-inducing quips usually told by a well-intentioned person such as “No one’s ever gonna love you with an attitude like that” or, “Suck it up now buttercup, crying never got you anywhere.”
“Bitter’s” music video is equally engaging as it campily demonstrates the song’s message of how these hurtful phrases often follow one throughout their life. The chorus calls out, “It’s bitter to be reminded of the happiness you’ll never have.” Ouch.
The second track “Panic” poses an interesting sentiment with the lyric, “Pleasure and the thought of pleasure are the same.” Beware, thinking about it too deeply could cause a happy ending. With a distortion pattern reminiscent of Sonic Youth’s “Kool Thing,” “Panic” ends with the repetition of the lyrics “I don’t worry now” dancing between the two crooning vocalists Phillips and Rebecca Seatle.
Hidden past the album’s halfway point, the song most resembling a traditional song, “Labor Day,” happens to be an album standout. The energy is still present on this track, but it is presented in a different way as “Labor Day” features longer instrumental sections with lyrics added only as icing. About a minute in, the bass creates a beautiful set of cascading chords manufacturing a moment where the trio finally feels full. This moment gives the song a swell of emotion, which helps the listener to feel the labor aspect of the song’s title.
The final track “One Way Out” shows off skill from the most impressive musician of the trio, drummer Dylan Teggart. The lyrics begin with “Take a breath and you’re out of the game. No one here will convince you to stay.” That attitude is what helps Grind maintain their underground feel even when working with GRAMMY® award-winning producer Sylvia Massy on this album.
Grind is not for everyone but will appeal to those with a certain set of tastes. With punk energy and woke deliverance, A Deer A Horse made it a point to release the unexpected.