The Lowdown: Mothers’ debut full length, When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired, was a record with a tender touch. In the past two years following the album’s critical success, they’ve moved from Athens, GA, to Philadelphia, perhaps trading in Southern sweetness and charm for something more urgent and fast-paced, as well as signed to a larger record label, ANTI. If When You Walk… was easy listening, Render Another Ugly Method is anything but. Disjointed and disoriented drums stop and start quickly and slowly throughout the album, and guitars drone on to pave a dismal entryway for Kristine Leschper’s haunting, almost monotone vocals.
The Good: Render is most successful when Leschper considers the most mundane situations the body exists in, topics that are often taken for granted. On “BEAUTY ROUTINE”, she calls teeth brushing a “distraction” and “an act of desperation,” before she concludes, “Show me a beauty routine that will erase me completely.” “WESTERN MEDICINE” shows a very welcome sarcastic side of Leschper. After detailing a doctor’s visit in which the narrator is told, “Well you seem quite healthy so/ Don’t be needy,” Leschper sighs innocently, “God bless the brave men of western medicine.” Leschper covers simple scenes and interactions on songs like standout “PINK”, ironically mentioning the author Sam Pink, whose writing is known to narrate experiences of the banal and day-to-day.
The Bad: Tracks on Render falter when they become more abstract than these typical scenes of recognizable situations, becoming often too self-aware. The song title “BAPTIST TRAUMA” is a curious one, until we realize that the title represents an acronym. “Bearing almost pure tarnish/
Image starving the traffic/ Rake arms/ Unlearn magic again,” the words begin.
The Verdict: Lyrics that need to be read aloud to be understood, plus an unsettling discombobulation of tempos, dynamics, and various internal compositions, plus Leschper’s monotonous drone, all co-existing for nearly one hour becomes mentally exhausting and almost frustrating halfway through Render. Music is never required to be relaxing, but if there’s one thing everyone could use once in a while, it’s a break.
Essential Tracks: “PINK”, “BEAUTY ROUTINE”