reviewed by Michael Thomas
Harley Alexander is not at all vague about the meaning behind Spill Kid. He says on his Bandcamp page: “Spill Kid is about processing sexual-trauma. The space that opens up after the crying, despair, rage, and self hatred, is a calm and vulnerable place that I wanted to reach.”
The second sentence is key. Ostensibly, if you were to ignore the lyrics and subtle changes in Alexander’s singing style, you would hear a very chill-sounding record. He doesn’t use much more than a guitar and “a talkback mic from a headphone cable,” and at first it sounds very meditative. But the more you listen, the more you’ll realize reaching that “mellow” place came at a cost.
Musically, the brightest and darkest moments of the album aren’t too different, and perhaps that subtlety is intentional. Picture the album as an overcast day, and on songs like “Look at You” and “Slay (the patriarchy)” you can start to see some sunlight peaking out from behind the clouds. In “Look at You,” Alexander sings of the people unrecognized, who never get a “good job!” for the work they’ve done. But there’s a strength in persisting.
Alexander also said he wanted to take on toxic masculinity, and there’s no song more pointed in that direction than the aforementioned “Slay.” Alexander knows that being male has given him many advantages but still says “All that I know/Patriarchy’s gotta go.”
Conflict bubbles up to the surface, like in “I Learned to Shout.” He sings of a relationship that gets more and more sour until he sings “This time/You go to shake hands and make out/with a new/cute person.” The gloomiest song might be “Tiny Bricks,” where Alexander sounds even more down and at times sounds like his voice is going to break from emotion. He’s moving on from something awful and it’s obviously not easy.
The most meditative song on the album is “Sun Burn Song,” which features no actual words, just a lot of humming and bright guitar. Unload your stress and hum into the void.
The more time you spend with this album, the more you’ll find a space in which you can be alone with your feelings and Harley Alexander’s musical version of a warm hug and a positive affirmation.
Top Tracks: “Sometimes It’s Good”; “Tiny Bricks”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)