Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mothers - When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired (2016)

Considering that Athens, Georgia's quartet Mothers grew around singer/songwriter Kristine Leschper's solo endeavors, the choice to open their debut album When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired with the sparse, emotive "Too Small For Eyes" seems particularly inspired. For many it'll be first introduction they get to Mothers and the album opener is as close to the band's 2013 incarnation featuring solely Leschper as you're bound to get. "Too Small For Eyes", begins with a simple mandolin accompaniment that slowly but surely builds with each stanza until at the height of Leschper's insecurity laden lyrics there's the lushness of string section to confidently support Leschper's inner narrative. Though not quite to the effect as "Too Small For Eyes", When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired often pairs Leschper's narratives at their most cerebral and their most small with complex arrangements. And yet, the album isn't just a musical pity party in 8 parts. Songs like "It Hurts Until It Doesn't", the second song on the album and proper introduction to the full band, or "Nesting Behavior" reveals Leschper as balanced songwriter - unafraid to offer up her own flaws and doubts but also point out those of others.

Much of When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired relies on the juxtaposition of narratives, as the songs often form telling pairs building off each other's conflicts and resolutions. "It Hurts Until It Doesn't" acknowledges Leschper's character faults, only to surge forward in the fiery kiss-off of "Cooper Mines". "I felt your love for a little while but never had the guts to give myself up" Lescher laments in "It Hurt Until It Doesn't" while her retort of "What I have to give is small but at least I can admit it" in "Cooper Mines" is practically dripping with venom. And yet, Leschper proves herself capable of traversing those very same tonal differences in the course of a single song like "Nesting Behavior", definite album highlight "Lockjaw", or on somber album closer "Hold You Own Hand". Leschper see-saws between melancholy, steely determination, and resigned acceptance over the course of the album in a way that realistically recalls both the deterioration of a relationship, wrestling with your own self-doubt, and also the clarity gleaned from experience and time passed.

Leschper's narratives are offered with such a natural plain-spoken grace, they're easily able to inspire visceral reactions from their lived-in universal experiences. And yet, Mothers are able to dress some of those experiences up in a way that ensures the album functions as more than just mood music. Much of When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired is filled with a pervasive sense of melancholy, but it's also a record that let's both Leschper and the band celebrate their victories both minor and major. Leschper shifts through tenses, places herself both apart and among her most personal moments and the rest of Mothers: guitarist Drew Kirby, bassist Patrick Morales, drummer Matthew Anderegg, and even producer Drew Vandenberg aid in the journey. There's something to be said for the effectiveness of the singer/songwriter confessional but Mothers attempts to and ultimately succeeds on When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tried to pair the stirring heart of Kristine Leschper's deeply honest songwriting with the attention-grabbing forward momentum of a tight-knit rock band willing to experiment and explore. It's a fascinating sort of alchemy that puts Mothers in a league of their own able to synthesize style and substance in way that's unique and enjoyable so. When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired is a texturally complex, emotional powerhouse and hopefully just the beginning for Mothers.

Mothers' debut album When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired is out February 26th on Grand Jury. The album is now streaming as a part of NPR's First Listen here and you can pre-order it via Mothers' Bandcamp, Grand Jury, or if you order via your local record you get a specially made limited edition zine in the States and a demos and cassette recordings bonus disc if you're aboard. Lots of options to own this stunningly beautiful gem of an album.

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