Review Summary: The album is a breeze due to Brown’s elegant chord progressions and reserved but poignant melodies.
Sometimes no problem
is embarrassing, but in the way that your friends are sometimes embarrassing. If someone is your friend, your real friend, they are (one would hope) always putting themselves out there for you to see, and once in a while the things that are revealed when you put yourself out there are odd or nonsensical or rub up against social conventions and mores in ways you didn’t expect. Rachel Brown, who is also a member of the band Water From Your Eyes, puts themselves out there.
The title of no problem
’s opener sets the tone: “thanksforcoming.bandcamp.com,” an act of putting oneself out there so baldfaced and shameless that it registers as I guess an ironic commentary on the bizarre mediations tucked into the ways we connect in the Internet age. This is what the lyrics are about, at least: “I sent you a message on the internet / Glad we could connect”. Ironic for sure: Brown surely is more conversant with computers and social media than to use this kind of language. But the descending chord pattern that repeats throughout the song counterbalances the irony–and irony is a hugely important lyrical strategy to Brown–giving it weight and profundity, allowing it to register finally as the evasive maneuvers of a young person living with a detached but urgent perspective on their own scary young feelings. Brown therefore puts themselves out there, just in a way that might not be familiar to the heart-on-sleeve procedures of any which wave of emo or punk music.
The package in which this precisely attuned balance of distanced irony and contorted soul-baring is presented should immediately register as familiar to anyone who likes great indie rock, though–no problem
is 24 songs (each with a music video; goddamn) and a touch over one hour long, but *** is a breeze
due to Brown’s elegant chord progressions and reserved but poignant melodies. Good instincts abound: take the pinging counterpoint of the dual guitars on the exceptionally stirring “stephen hawking’s goldfish analogy,” or the perfectly-opened hi-hat on the final chorus of the exceptionally stirring “trying,” or the autumnal, exceptionally wistful coffee stir of “those golden days”’ swaying acoustic guitar rhythm. Indie rock at its best sounds a bit janky but just right, too, like with the shuffling breakdown of the Microphones’ “The Glow, Pt. 2” or the twisty and melancholy guitarwork on Life Without Buildings’ slam-poetry masterpiece “The Leanover”. Brown, over the course of 24 (goddamn) little nuggets of indie rock wizardry, constructs immaculately ebbing-and-flowing tunes upon which to lay down rough-hewn yet lucid guitar (often acoustic, sometimes ukulele), groovy bass, and their inimitable enunciations and deadpan voice.
Gorgeous and affecting moments of creative fluidity and personal confession abound; so do a lot of slightly embarrassing moments. To realize that these two strains of Brown’s artistic personality cannot be definitively separated out is to internalize an important lesson about people–that we all have skeletons in the closet; that we are yoked helplessly to the people who hurt us; that those skeletons and that hurt can be beautiful. Brown’s delicate application of these complex principles to their musical and lyrical form means we don’t even need to pick up a self-help book to learn about how to engage with the world more honestly. Instead, we can just turn on no problem
and dance in our chairs, wondering when life will show us the way to ourselves, knowing it one day will.