by Katie Hanford
“Slacker rock,” “bruised jams,” and “slow emo” are all qualifiers I’ve heard attached to Philadelphia’s CLIQUE in the past. Burden Piece is no exception to these identifications, but provides proof of the band’s growing maturity and their mastery of each of these ultra-specific genres. Their sophomore album builds on the sound they have pursued for years, cleaning it up around the edges to make it seem sloppy in a completely deliberate fashion. Their emo-influenced soul-bearing lyrics (that are irresistibly screamable at Philly basement shows) combine with crunchy guitar melodies, intertwining throughout each track in a way that feels simple but requires dozens of listens to dissect fully. Lead vocalists PJ Carroll and Brandon Shipp treat their distinct voices as instruments, tag-teaming both harmonies and melodies to produce a layered effect that adds a unique flavor to even the most straight-forward of riffs. Their tracks are catchy, complex, and surprisingly deep, hitting a sweet spot that leaves the listener begging for more by the time the two minutes (or less) are up.
It’s tough to pick favorites on a record as solid as Burden Piece, but when considering tracks that best exemplify the album, “Usage” comes to mind. Released a few days prior to the rest of the album as an "Honest Face Session," this track contains only five lines of lyrics that quickly cut deep, portraying an insecurity that bites and resonates with those who have sought the truth of their identity: “No, I don't know what the fuck is wrong with me / a hollow shell of the things I hope that I could be.” The music augments the sentiment, with each instrument riding its own wave in a different melodic direction, periodically colliding somewhere in the middle to ground us all in insecurity.
Although the boys of CLIQUE maintain a personal connection with misunderstanding and confusion throughout Burden Piece, it’s pretty clear their songwriting can’t be categorized as such. Instead, they provide us with a (somewhat contradictory) 25 minutes of sludgy-yet-tight, unstable-yet-planned “slacker” rock that creates the perfect platform to bounce our own insecurities off. Even after a year of playing these tracks on repeat, their headbanging quality has not worn off. Burden Piece is proof of how CLIQUE have earned their spot at the top of the Philly scene. If they continue to make music of this caliber, I’m guessing they’ll remain there for the foreseeable future.