Review – “Bad Mantras” – boyhood

bad mantrasreviewed by Michael Thomas

Caylie Runciman’s first non-Christmas release since 2012’s when i’m hungry has come from, in Runciman’s own words, a “dark period.” She says this recording reflects where she was two-and-a-half years ago, and she’s past it now. Considering her previous output, you can hear how the outright ferociousness of some her past material has given way to moodiness.

Which isn’t to say her music is any less effective, just markedly different. There’s enough vagueness in most of the songs’ lyrics to be able to discern that it comes from darker circumstances, but not enough to completely identify those circumstances. In opener “Exasperated,” for instance, a glitchy soundtrack, Runciman seems to think of her very existence as a question, “So I ask a lot of questions.” Funereal synth lines decorate “Luvbomb,” where Runciman repeats “Pretend like I don’t know,” but never quite elaborating on what unwanted knowledge she’s obtained.

It’s not all unclear, of course. “He Don’t” is a slow-burner rock song that prominently features the lyrics “He never loved me.” The atmosphere of “Drivin'” is a song of sadness, but it draws strength from Runciman’s appearances in other musicians’ work, like The Acorn, and the song reminds me of the kind of honest folk sound of First Aid Kit. “Sooner Than You” has Runciman saying she always arrives home sooner than a lover; what is the lover doing?

I should mention “Luvbomb,” referenced above, has a part two, “Luvbomb Cont’d,” that has a totally different musical makeup. Layers of dueling guitars mesh together for a song that still carries a deep sadness, and the song ends with what sounds like a recording of a march or protest.

It took a long time for Runciman to bring Bad Mantras into the world and it’s an important step in boyhood’s musical evolution.

Top Tracks: “Drivin'”; “Luvbomb”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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