by Kat Harding (@iwearaviators)
The cover of Christina Schneider’s debut experimental pop album features an ID card, (very similar to my college ID, coincidentally) behind a cartoon illustration of a girl who looks ready for a fight. This image sets the tone for the punch in the head that is Violence Etcetera. Recorded completely on a Tascam 488 Cassette 8-track and released on November 15th of last year, via now-shuttered OSR Tapes, Schneider gave us one of the most interesting albums of the past 12 months.
With screechy vocals and noisy instrumentation, the album is not for those looking for an easy listening singer-songwriter. Schneider’s songs are much more interesting, incorporating high-pitched chirps and wails into the gentle guitar and lightly distorted tracks. The title track opens the album, establishing the feeling that we’re not really safe, but it isn’t all that bad. “Violence etcetera” is repeated over and over; in Schneider’s sweet voice, it doesn’t sound as dangerous as it could be.
“Oranges,” a spoken word poem read by author Rebecca Rom-Frank, is about an anxiety-filled trip to the grocery store. Apprehensive guitar picking fills the background, and Rom-Frank’s cool voice tells us what happened on the ill-fated trip, where both a man and woman pity and hate each other mutually and for very little reason. With all of the frustration recently, it is quite easy to hate a random stranger just doing their job with little cause other than preconceived judgment. Unlike the couple in “Oranges,” it is best to keep it to yourself.
The background fuzz on “Can You Get the Light” highlights the recording process, picking up the noise in whatever room or studio Schneider recorded in. This song is a short, Spanish-guitar influenced track with Schneider vowing to go for the light, even if it kills her. Her cover of The Flatlanders’ “I Know You” is beautiful, and should ideally be listened to surrounded by candle light. The album closes with “Silver Bells”: “silver bells/ silver bells/ it’s Christmas time in hell,” which was exactly how most of us felt this holiday season. Her humorous songwriting and quirky instrumentals leap between genres, hitting folk and pop, going all the way to avant-garde and experimental, ensuring her record is anything but boring.