yours are the only ears – knock hard

– featured image courtesy of alyssa yohana –

“album of the fortnight” is a bi-weekly feature that digs into a recent release of note. the articles will run roughly during the middle and at the end of each month, always on a friday; the album or body of work in question will have been released at some point during that two-week span.  this column focuses on art that resonates deeply, on pieces that necessitate more than just a knee-jerk reaction.  next up: yours are the only ears.

Even after susannah cutler began sharing her music publicly in 2014, its dissemination was incredibly measured: a track here, an extended play there, each release a quick glimpse inside a setting so intimate it’s nearly indescribable.  with knock hard, her first full-length release as yours are the only earscutler has finally allowed full immersion into the innermost depths of her private world.

the album’s nine tracks contain a standard palette so sparing that each foreign element introduced carries weight of seismic proportions; the aqueous synth pads on “to be alone” whisk the track away on a solitary voyage to sea, while the melancholic slide motif at the tail end of “seeds” seems to add a second wistful character to the conversation.  the sparseness is a necessity – best not to bury one’s soul being bared in the mix – and comes in handy for a project so centered around the second person, light finger-picking progressing softly in the background as cutler confides in hushed tones.

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despite its enduring sonic warmth and inherently bucolic tendencies, knock hard grapples with the darker questions of existence and belonging, from opening number “saturn” through to its finale, “low.”  there’s a quiet existential crisis housed in the early standout “fire in my eyes,” cutler’s voice embodying the album’s fragility as it cracks over the repeated inquiry “am i a good person?,” while the gritty “enter me” ruminates on the effects of abrupt abandonment, observing that “comfort makes a funny face / when it goes away.”

clocking in at just under thirty minutes, knock hard is a tidy bundle of understated folk songs, acoustic guitars supplemented by well-placed synth countermelodies and barebones percussion.  songs frequently eschew identifiable refrains, cutler instead favoring streams of consciousness that may be tied together by a common vocal melody or a simple but potent mantra.  it’s this choice that gives knock hard its gravity, a versatile strategy that allows cutler to either chart a linear course towards reckoning or to disappear into the contours of a specific emotion or situation.

an album at least four years in the making, the debut from yours are the only ears is essential listening, the strength of its whispered intimacy becoming more apparent each time the needle contacts the wax.  knock hard is out now via team love records.  listen in full below.

yours are the only ears – “you and bobby”

– featured image courtesy of daniel dorsa – 

just two weeks out from the release of her debut full-length, susannah cutler has shared the album’s final single, “you and bobby.”  like the rest of cutler’s output at the helm of yours are the only ears, “you and bobby” is incredibly measured, doling out precise parcels of vivid imagery, storytelling that wends through optimism and desolation before arriving at its final destination.

the sparse instrumentation gradually fills out as the song progresses, the keyboards exploring more motion with the percussion as rigid acoustic fingerpicking ventures into an upper register.  but it’s when everything drops out that “you and bobby” reaches critical mass, the faint pulse of a kick drum and the warbling current of organ pads absorbing the weight and resolution of cutler’s lyrics.

knock hard is out may 11th via team love records.  listen to “you and bobby” below.

yours are the only ears – “fire in my eyes”

– featured image courtesy of daniel dorsa – 

susannah cutler has constructed an entire realm of sound around a foundation of potent, affecting lyrics.  the building blocks that comprise the sonic architecture of cutler’s work as yours are the only ears feel less sparse than they do exhaustively sourced and meticulously placed, a curation of complementary timbres that accentuate the sheer weight of her lyrics.

ahead of the release of her debut album, knock hard, cutler has shared its third single, “fire in my eyes.”  bucolic acoustic finger-pickings coexist with an ominous sub-bass synth line, an unsettling juxtaposition that functions as an analog to cutler’s vacillations about the song’s subject.  her audience bears witness to all the hesitations that accompany a toxic relationship’s dissolution, culminating in the heartbreaking, repeated inquiry of “am i a good person?”  it’s a tour de force of emotion, snippets of memories stitched together into an unforgettable, hypothetical narrative.

knock hard is due may 11th via the esteemed team love records.  listen to the powerful “fire in my eyes” below.

premiere – tica douglas

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

nestled among this year’s shortlist of outstanding releases is tica douglas’ our lady star of the sea, help and protect us.  the album’s eleven songs are dotted with characters and stories born out of douglas’ time purusing their master’s degree in divinity from union theological seminary; at times sparse and at others cacophonous, our lady star and its contents should be unpacked over time with the utmost care.

at the center of our lady star lies “weightless,” a song about release, the lifting of burdens.  the resounding catharsis is almost palpable once douglas arrives at the hook, their lead vocal toggling between the phrase “weight lift” and the song’s title as hesitant arpeggios further compound its melancholic buoyancy.

perhaps it’s fitting, then, that the new music video accompanying “weightless” seems so preoccupied with the concept of floating.  director gracie pizzo aligns molds of slow-moving aerial footage to douglas’ verses and chorus; as more abstract imagery begins to drift by, douglas can be glimpsed taking it all in, transfixed by a fleeting instance of beauty analogous to the lyrical themes they explore.

our lady star of the sea, help and protect us is out now via team love records.  watch the gorgeous visuals for “weightless,” premiering right here on the dimestore, below.