Collaboration is the heart of creative work, and it can be the key to opening up new musical and lyrical avenues. Call and Response was born of two artists who respect and admire each other deciding to connect. Matt Pond heard Alexa Rose mention his band in her song “Wild Peppermint” and reached out with thanks and an invitation to work on some songs together. This sweet and clear-eyed collection is the result.
The EP’s first track, “Imagining Everything,” explores the discomfort of vulnerability—standing on the precipice of contentment but not quite trusting it. “Am I imagining everything? Like what it means when you say, let’s go to sleep. In my mind, I heard that you hated me,” Pond sings. It also asks the very Pondian question, “How can I let go and love this world?” There’s a sense of relief about being on an emotional upswing; the load seems lighter. But there’s some lingering unease about not having to carry as much.
“Halloween 2,” using gentle tropes of the holiday, is a beautiful recognition of culpability played out against sparkling autumnal strings. The image of a skeleton in a window giving away candy (“sometimes I feel the same”) is a pretty striking contrast to the threats of smashing up the windows and setting fire to the curtains in Pond’s original “Halloween.”
Side Eye Rolls starts out jaunty and a bit tongue in cheek, with Pond declaring that he’s ready to “make amends,” even to the people who “got offended by a couple cuss words, the side eye rolls.” Then he admits, “I’ve got a plan to fix the holes inside my plans, but that’s as far as my plans go.” The chorus resonates with emotion, though—“and now you’re breaking my heart before I go and break yours”—and the casual coda of Rose singing solo lightens the mood again.
It’s fitting that the languid cover of the Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony” is sung not in harmony but in unison, with the two contemplating what it means to be alive, and how impossible but necessary it feels to be able to connect.
For the final song, “St. Lou,” Pond steps aside and lets Rose shine. The line “This window is a mirror with a view” ties things together nicely—echoing the idea that the more closely we look at others, the better we can see ourselves.
Bathtub cig is the intimate depression pop project of Hilary James. Born in a Minneapolis bedroom the spring of 2017, it is an honest attempt at coping with her long struggle with mental health. She is joined by Dave Power on drums, Skyler Nowinski on bass, and Hannah Heble on synth, flute and harmony.
Their 2018 debut EP “Old Light” draws comparisons to a synth-pop version of Frankie Cosmo with raw lyrics. 2021 Ep “bed” is both a dream-like and hazy musing on quarantine as well as a heartbreaking attempt to cope with grief. In a departure from James’ first full band EP “Old Light”, this new release is a stripped down solo voyage. Hilary is joined by Addie Strei (Adelyn Rose) on clarinet, flute, and bass to create beautiful textures to balance out the loneliness of the electric guitar. Their 2022 debut full length “Night Blindness” has been described as a clever and dark Gen Z Ode, putting our hardest thoughts into music.
New single “Red Pine” will be out on February 2, 2024.
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