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Lip Talk - D A Y S Music Album Reviews

Perhaps familiar from her time in Okkervil River, the multi-instrumentalist builds fascinating webs of sound around skeletal songs on her solo debut.

For an artist only now releasing her solo debut, Sarah K. Pedinotti sports an impressive résumé. The New York multi-instrumentalist is a member of Okkervil River, led the twitchy pop act Railbird, played live in the Secret Machines, and worked as a songwriter with the chamber-pop outfit Cuddle Magic. She’s made versatility a calling card, playing keyboards in an audacious indie folk outfit and bass in a florid psych-rock band during the same span. It’s no surprise, then, that Pedinotti’s interests as a solo artist are broad. On D A Y S, her debut as Lip Talk, she draws freely from indie pop, psych, R&B, and electronic music. The claustrophobic sound evokes late nights spent tinkering in the studio, busy hours squirreled away while the rest of the world is sleeping.

For all their adventurousness, the songs on D A Y S do share some elements: fuzzed-out guitars, leaden minor chords, swaddling synths, reedy vocals. As an arranger, Pedinotti values texture and weight over fidelity, her layers of instrumentation shaping complex cocoons of sound. The interlocking rhythms on songs like “Ad Junkie” and “Disneyland” reach toward the maximalism of Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief. Soulful numbers such as “After All” tilt toward Frank Ocean’s songcraft, while “Gold ^ Pink” and “w i n n e r s” feel like sketches for Lorde songs, wrapped in wool. They collectively suggest Pedinotti as a sort of meticulous set designer, producing rich and varied environments for her words, from the siren-like synths and booming drums of “Artemis” to the subterranean noise and syncopated percussion bubbling beneath “Fuk It Up.”

As interesting as much of D A Y S sounds, though, the underlying songs can feel flimsy, like a lean-to carefully decorated with Christmas lights. The bones of these tunes feel half-formed, like sketches or demos rushed out the door. The melodies are often far more forgettable than the atmospheres they inhabit, and the lyrics don’t reinforce them. “I imagined characters in the songs like scenes in a movie, emotion expressed like colors on a canvas,” Pedinotti has said of her songs. But these vague platitudes feel like placeholders left on reference tracks. Generic nonsense undercuts the otherwise sticky chorus of “Lemon Drop,” while the soulful vocals of “After All” belie lyrics that don’t bare much soul at all: “I don’t know what to do with myself,” she offers in the chorus.

But during the delicate and minimal “Doublethink,” one of D A Y S’ strongest songs, all these elements do come together. Pedinotti begins alone at the piano, hammering out staccato chords before judiciously adding embellishments like synth flutes and plaintive saxophone. Her voice traces lilting, lullaby-like melodies, her nuance bringing her complex character into focus—not just melancholic but bemused, weary but also wiser. Pedinotti manages to communicate a knotty set of emotions and build a memorable song in the process. This refinement is what’s missing from so much of D A Y S, a record that, for all its richness, feels largely devoid of coherent songcraft or a singular vision. If these songs are indeed like scenes in a movie, they could benefit from a tighter script and better dialog, meant to match the impressive cinematography.

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