by Max Freedman (@anticlimaxwell)
In the two or so years following their 2014 debut LP Tough Love, New Jersey five-piece Forth Wanderers remained mostly silent until announcing a new EP shockingly far ahead of its release. This past August, the band revealed its new Slop EP for a November release. A three-month lead time for something as short as an EP – especially one that barely spans ten minutes – is a striking contrast to the increasingly surprise-release world of music marketing and sales. But it makes sense: for a band of five college students (most, if not all, of whom aren’t old enough to legally drink) spread across three different schools in three different geographical regions, having the time, energy, and commitment to record and release four songs is album-level impressive. It doesn’t hurt that the finished product is equally respectable.
Slop keeps up the Tough Love trick of dropping a memorably dejected yet winking statement within its very first moments. Many of the listeners comprising Forth Wanderers’ feverish cult following might remember the simultaneous chuckle and sigh they heaved when vocalist Ava Trilling, who’s not even six months out of high school at the moment, declared “I wanna be known/as a girl who’s stone cold” only eleven seconds into Tough Love opener “Selfish”; Slop’s opening cry of “hey honey, are you lonely too?” merely six seconds into first track “Know Better” likewise approaches its subject (in this case, post-romantic depression) with a candor that’s as tongue-in-cheek as many of Tough Love’s constant lyrical highlights. The song’s melancholy, single-string guitar melodies over distant power chord fuzz and sharply focused drumming stick to Forth Wanderers’ already fascinating formula, as do Trilling’s nasal exasperations. “Slop” likewise feels at home with the rest of Forth Wanderers’ brief catalog, and as with “Know Better,” it’s just as stirring and easy to get absorbed into as everything else the band has offered to date.
In general, Slop is the work of a band employing an if-the-shoe-fits-wear-it approach to songwriting. It’s not terribly different than Tough Love or even 2013’s Mahogany EP, yet its final two tracks, “Nerves” and “Unfold,” feel a bit more leashed than the despondently sliding songs of Forth Wanderers’ past. The tighter production across Slop only becomes truly obvious on these tracks, wherein the band manages to wrangle something less jolting out of its often surprisingly bouncy style. “Something sooth my nerves,” Trilling begs on “Nerves,” and her plea works; the track is rather calming, a beautiful contrast to the fanged hopelessness of past songs such as “Painting of Blue.” “Unfold,” which closes Slop, is exactly what its title suggests: an unfolding, a show of Forth Wanderers’ cards. Here, the band leaves its agile, interwoven riffage at the door in favor of an eyes-to-the-ground stillness – borderline stiffness, even – not often found in its previous works. It’s an appropriate sound for a song that ends the EP with Trilling’s resolve completely destroyed: “Needless to say, I’m in love with you” are her last words before Slop’s curtains draw to a close.
“I stick with things that never change/I know you want more,” Trilling sang on Tough Love pinnacle “Blondes Have More Fun.” Slop is a living, breathing example of this thesis: those who wanted more from Forth Wanderers may find themselves a tad disappointed that its changes are subtle at most. But it’s easy to admire just how much the band sticks with things that never change, even when the result is more relaxing than it is jarring, when the songs are this uniformly strong.