by Kelly Johnson
When I was ripping off Pitchfork reviews as a music writer for my college newspaper, my editor gave me some advice that I still think about when I draft write-ups. I handed in a record review that associated the music on the EP (I think it was Iron and Wine) to walking around campus during autumn. Besides rightfully telling me to remove that shameful and embarrassing analogy, he explained that comparing music to the weather was cliché in all instances and to avoid it at all costs. I think that’s an accurate statement in most circumstances because so many reviews use weather as a kind of vivification for the reader. However, it’s always the first place my mind goes when an album is affecting me in some way. EARRING’s new album Tunn Star reminded me of dusk in the summer, but I don’t think the band intended that.
EARRING is a Chicago shoegaze-y rock duo consisting of Jason Balla and Alex Otake from the band Ne-Hi. On the Bandcamp page for Tunn Star, Earring describes the composition of the album when “it’s almost winter and the streets are about to be frozen for months.” They also mention that the album will drop “just in time for the spring thaw.” So, maybe not dusk in the summer.
But it’s no coincidence that seasons are mentioned in the album’s narrative. Chicago weather is no joke; it informs everything about daily life. It certainly informs Tunn Star. There’s a deliberate haze over all 10 tracks, and whether that haze is the result of a retreat from the chilly winter or from the boiling summer, it’s a relatable sentiment of both relief and resignation.
Personally, I hear relief in Tunn Star. It’s the relief of dusk after a scorching hot summer day: sitting in a tank top, dried sweat caked all over your body, smoking a joint on the back porch. It’s hard to decipher most of Balla’s deadpan delivery, but it sounds like he is mustering a tongue-in-cheek “Hurrah” on “Smile Like Hell:” a celebration of brief respite from the elements.
EARRING presents a singular attack on this album. Aesthetically, it’s close to the lo-fi, blown-out sound of Weed but way more laid-back. The closest they get to “rocking out” is on “Black Chalk” where Otake drives a repetitive guitar pattern with crashing cymbals. Otherwise it’s back to business. Each song on Tunn Star follows a similar major-key construction where melodies glide along distorted guitar chords and the drums amble just behind. EARRING’s chosen aesthetic walks a fine line between engaging and monotonous, but they are able to rise above the fog with intriguing melodies and magnetic repetition.
Put this album on after a long day at work. It’s kind to immersion. It’s good for all Chicago weather (apologies to Derek).