by Jeremy Probst (@taskbastard)
What Have You Done to My Water, the second record by the Providence-based Beverly Tender (consisting of Molly Hastings and Tristan Brooks), is a record about anxiety. Throughout the course of this record, the listener is afforded a peek into what having anxiety is like. There is a pervasive sense of unease and uncertainty throughout, and it’s not just a result of the serpentine guitar lines or minor-key melodies. They also utilize structure, dynamics, and lyricism to convey these feelings.
The dynamics at play often suggest the ups-and-downs of mental illness and the emotional intensity surrounding personally impactful events or memories. The guitar lines and drum patterns alike in “Doggie Dog World” meander and twist in odd patterns. They deviate from chaotic, knotted sections to more driving and rhythmic parts. The result is a sonic density that pushes the song nearly to its breaking point. Beverly Tender truly shine in these moments throughout the record where the music crests and then suddenly falls to a more subdued section. “Any! Moment! Now! Yeah!” begins with a soft, contemplative intro section that feels almost peaceful, when suddenly drums erupt in 5/4 time for a louder instrumental section. The song then retreats back into a more reserved verse, and this sectional interplay continues. This may sound like a typical “verse-chorus” structure but the beauty is in the details—songs often veer in unexpected directions, drop off in intensity, or suddenly burst outward in an instrumental clash or guttural vocalization.
Many lyrics are vignettes of people or personal experiences: an accidental splash in a kitchen floor puddle, prompting the narrator to wonder “what it’s like to be chill” and asking, “will I be like this my whole life?” on “Theme from Beverly Blender”; existential musings on the dead animals along the highway while driving with a friend who is too high in “Drivey”; the detailed scene of a breakdown in “Taxidermy Horse”: “Break out in a cold sweat before you exit the room / Lock yourself in the bathroom / No one's gonna let you out / Skittish liar you're alone with yourself / Sink into the linoleum floor.” They’re extremely specific, extremely human experiences that explore a range of emotions, from the turmoil that comes with an anxiety attack, to the simmering unease that pervades mundane activities and routine social interactions.
With What Have You Done to My Water, Beverly Tender prove themselves adept at expressing such emotions from a personal and human perspective. The music, while challenging, isn’t inaccessible or abrasive. The guitars twinkle and bellow, and songs abruptly shift time signature and volume, but it’s always at a pace that’s just straightforward enough for the listener to follow. What’s novel about the music on this record is Beverly Tender’s ability to infuse such a specific and particular feeling and tenderness into it from every angle, not just lyrically but musically, and to maintain an accessible pop undercurrent throughout.