Review Summary: Rebirth, rejuvenation, everything's blooming, all that crap.
It’s probably because I’ve been listening to it as February turned to March, but Sloping’s debut album Completed Songs
feels like a thawing of sorts for sole member JJ Posway. Across nine quasi ambient indie folk songs, he wrangles with growing out of personal shortcomings and considers how wallowing in nostalgia can become a way to avoid contrition and maturation. The record plays like a document of Posway’s journey from a cold and stagnating past to a new, better life—sparse in details and instrumentation but potently melancholic and oddly hopeful.
“True hacks take it easy on themselves, and I won’t do it”, Posway affirms over ringing guitars chords and banjo plucks on “Raft”, an early highlight that establishes the self-reflective tone. Mantras like this crop up across Completed Songs
, scattered amongst suggestive imagery—a car that “smells like piss and orange slices”, a row of abandoned buildings, a bed of red clay by a lake—and details of inscrutable moments with roughly sketched characters. The vagueness in the lyrics helps the songs avoid myopic navel-gazing to a degree, but for a record that provides passing glimpses of epiphany and catharsis, it can also dull the emotional impact somewhat. Posway’s soft, unwavering vocals never betray how he’s truly feeling, even less so on songs like the easygoing “Treading” where he adopts a lightly robotic autotune (perhaps a crude representation of the emotional numbness he’s trying to break away from). Still, the moments of lucidity and growth strike with a disarming resonance: “Fetishize the past and now you get to live it/The snake comes back soon as you forgive it” he warns on “Nudge” with an earned sense of contentment. On closing track “Bench Seat”, Posway practices his thousand-yard stare so an old acquaintance can recognize him; even during the process of thawing out from who he once was, the ghosts of his old life still wander about, and he might not be completely ready to let go.
Big and warm acoustic guitars, sparse banjos, and light keyboard work provide the instrumental backdrop for these self-reflective musings, while field recordings and found sounds scratch at the edges of the mix. Completed Songs
nails the “distant/intimate” dichotomy that many ambient/indie folk artists strive for, tastefully restraining the reverb so as not to obscure the surprisingly tuneful and varied songwriting. After kicking off with two swaying strummers in “Brute Force and “Raft” that lean towards acoustic emo, Posway steers things into a few different, yet subtle directions: the deceptively opulent “Fitting Room” and “Treading” feel indebted to 90s slowcore, “Fir” wonderfully condenses a six minute post-rock epic down to two, and “Trail” takes a page from Elliott Smith’s playbook with its rickety, oblique melodies. As much as he’s soul-searching in his words, he is similarly unsettled in his music, trying on different styles like hats.
The songs on Completed Songs
can feel a bit anonymous or referential, but seeing that this is the project’s debut release, it’s easy to see Posway developing a more unique musical voice—especially when the songwriting, while slightly derivative, is already as solid as it is. Posway offers a plethora of moving, charming, and reflective moments over the record’s taut 30 minute runtime with nary a wasted moment. So even if it won’t set the genre alight, Completed Songs
is worth a visit for those predisposed to ambient/indie folk or dejected bedroom recordings. It’s a nice little album for spring, at least.