Thin Lips - Chosen Family
Review by Seth Wood
The lyrics to Chosen Family are vulnerable from the very beginning:
"I remember having a dream about a naked woman
And I ran downstairs crying, 'Mom I think I'm gay'
Like 5 or 6, I was little
And she said 'You're so young, you couldn't possibly know that'
I was comforted by that because I didn't want to go to hell
I was very afraid for my mortal soul, so much and so often
But once I finally settled into it, pushing my own personal boundaries
And unlearning all this like hateful stuff
Queer to me means boundary pushing and love and community and relationship
And chosen family"
How could you not be drawn in when the frontwoman is willing to be that sincere and open with you from the very start, right? That’s one of the most beautiful things about music. It frequently opens your eyes to the fact that there are other people out there going through all sorts of deep emotions just like you are. It’s a safe space for sharing the latent things that shape who we are.
So yeah, that wall of skepticism and that “prove yourself to me” vibe that we hold in front of us before checking out anything new was completely demolished instantly for me when listening to this album. Chosen Family, the band’s second record, is emotionally raw but so musically polished—the best of both worlds. The rhythm section on this album sounds so huge. The bass just shakes you. There are some almost-funky drum beats that show up in the first third of the album, but mostly, the rhythms are easy and straightforward in an aggressive, punky way. As for the guitars, I am not nearly knowledgeable enough in the world of music production to explain to you what they did to make the instrument sound so vintage but so pervasive, so grungy but so warm—but rest assured, it’s nice. Then you have Chrissy Tashijan’s vocals which frequently sound angsty and vulnerable but not in a way that makes the songs lose their pop-y feel, and the harmonies sound like nothing I’ve heard before.
There really is so much going on with the vocals. This can be best heard on the track “South America.” The voice sounds slightly distorted and maybe even a little muffled (a feeling which matches well with some of the guitar tones). In the chorus, the harmony comes over the top of it to take some of the anger out but to also push the energy up a notch. Some not-so-subtle “ah’s” come over that in the second chorus, making it feel like it’s not even worth saying the words anymore, like the malady can only be sung and not spoken. It becomes very clear in instances like these how careful the musicians were in making every moment of this album something special.
I don’t think you have to be a fan of kinda-punky, kinda-grungy, hints-of-folky indie music to enjoy this album. Some aspect of it will make you feel something. It has that much to offer.
LISTEN TO: "Gaslight Anthem (The Song Not the Band)"
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