By Eric Chavez
Like the cover itself, everything about nerkween’s music, from the structure to the lyrics, is somewhat of a black swan. Never conforming to, well, any sort of convention, Atlanta-based singer-songwriter Monica Arrington, also known as nerdkween, is back on the scene with her sophomore album. With a semi-strong local cult following from the success of her debut, Synergy, nerdkween has made quite a name for herself in Atlanta as both an artist and a live act. But the question remains, can the artist avoid the sophomore slump?
An album defined by the sound of dissonance, this LP isn’t for everybody, but there are some fun spots. “Bird Twitters” gets the prize sweetest melody of the bunch, and with its minimalistic sound and the different-but-still-fun strum of the banjo along with her distorted vocals, makes for the singer’s most interesting moment. On the other hand, with no progression in the song, even though it clocks in at 3:29, the sound loses its initial punch after a while.
Hitting a dark point on the album, the track “Drown,” with lyrics like “I can’t bear these days,/You and I aren’t safe, to chase the haze away/Let’s just be who we are, even if we fall,” could either be about a spiritual rebirth or suicide. Even “Such Grace,” a lyrical love song, combined with the lo-fi, minimalist sound, is just as disheartening and weary as “Drown.”
To be frank, with only seven songs on the record, it was an odd choice for the singer to include short, instrumental tracks on the LP. Perhaps there is an attempt to include these tracks as a segue-way between songs and as a cool-down ending, but similar to other interludes on other albums, these by no means hold the interest of the listener. What is really disappointing about the final track. “…a year of the Dragon” lies within the fact that is if the album’s most innovative, fascinating production. One can only imagine where nerkween could have gone with the song lyrically.
As limited as nerdkween’s vocal range is, when it comes to the album itself, vocals take a back seat to the art. Even with its slice of pretension, the album does come off as real and valid by exploring different aspects of life in stark-naked confessional manner. It’s that alone that makes this artist worthy of more profit, than loss.