by Rob Cleveland
Crush Crusher is IAN SWEET’s intensely intimate followup to an ongoing narrative of interpersonal relationships and self-examination, weighing in on the absurd interactions one has in their 20-somethings, in what consistently feels like the end of an era. The amount of emotional acuity it takes to appease other people in a regular day’s work can often warrant “a little bit of hiding,” as Jillian Medford puts it. Medford crushes these anxieties by exposing intimate details, providing anecdotes and insight into emotional detours. Songwriting is sometimes the only cure, or the only way to demolish these 10-story buildings erected by old standbys, like fear of loneliness, depression, inferiority, rejection, etc. Medford is a demolition expert.
“I felt determined to push myself and test every boundary that I may have subconsciously created along the way,” says Medford. Whereas Shapeshifter was more nuanced or encoded by Medford’s own idiomatic language, Crush Crusher is crystallized by its intention to rip off the bandaid and be more specific; it’s a lesson in owning one’s insecurities, an ode to self-awareness and a voyage through the fog of toxic relationships, wherein the ability to make an appropriate evaluation of oneself is obstructed.
Yet another win for Hardly Art Records (Sub Pop’s “sister label”), Crush Crusher was produced by Gabe Wax (Deerhunter, The War On Drugs, Soccer Mommy) at Rare Book Room studios in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Some of Medford’s biggest influences (Bjork, Dirty Projectors, Deerhunter), have all recorded in this very room. “Gabe made me feel comfortable with attempting anything,” Medford says. The album exudes this level of comfort as Medford relinquishes all the aforementioned anxieties.
“Hiding” is a bouncy ripper with tortuous guitars and airtight hooks, befitting of its album opener status. “Falling Fruit” marks the first reoccurrence of the Karen O screech we know and love, while “Ugly/Bored” possesses further qualities found on IAN SWEET’s debut LP with the adhesive, mantric powers of “I’m so ugly / I’m so bored,” delivered and repeated in way that recalls Shapeshifter’s title track. But then it evolves into another kind of plainspoken beast: “I forgot, did I ever ask what you thought the day we fucked in the parking lot?”
Medford also asserts self-reclamation on “Bug Museum,” “Borrowed Body,” and the closer, “Your Arms Are Water,” lobbing up lyrics like “Did you get out of your head, to get in mine,” or “Scared of being bit by what bites harder than I can,” or “Now I know what love is / It’s getting a tongue in your face.” The lyrics are increasingly idiosyncratic, but also uncompromising in their ability to be forthright.
This is competent, self-help indie-rock. The power to evade misery by coming to terms with your own imperfections is crucial, and the objective is clear: Take care of yourself, and try not to invest in the company that will always bring you down.