by Dalvin Aboagye (@dalvinandhobbes)
A strange side effect of the miniature golden age of indie rock we’re currently living through is the continuous creation of subgenres that try to categorize the constant flow of new releases. It’s almost become a joke at this point to birth a whole new identifier simply by taking an adjective and slapping the suffix “core” for legitimacy. When all is said and done, many releases rarely live up to the labels unknowingly placed on them. They can’t really be to blame here. After all, how does one live up to a denomination like “suburban slowcore” or “angular pop” when the history of either only goes back several years at most? It’s a pattern that you’ll see anyone throwing their hat into the music-writing ring exhibit down the line. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with doing so, it’d be difficult to find an act that faithfully represents the characteristics of their respective subgenre. Enter Sean Henry; the New York City-based songwriter has dutifully acquired the label of soft grunge with his first studio album Fink. Over the course of ten tracks, Henry develops a taste for the angst-ridden emotions of late adolescence.
There’s something authentic about his approach to songwriting. He places enough distance between himself and the subject matter to not sound like someone stuck in the past, but is still able to capture the ambivalence present in many during that period. “Imperfection” opens the door with appropriately whiny melodies and Henry’s dislocated vocals hanging off the joints of the beat. It’s abrasive for sure, but it also contains soft spots throughout. Enough agitation is sprinkled on this layer cake to satisfy even the most dismissive of teenage mallrats. “Hard Down, Party Fiend” and “Gum in Hair” keep the party going with the same controlled positivity. These points on the album share more in common with the pop punk groups of years past. We get a first taste of Henry’s lite grunge with “The Ants,” a gloomy anthem whose words would seem nonsensical if they weren’t executed with the correct amount of moodiness. Fink as a whole gives off the impression of a grunge record with the outward appearance of an alternative group on the rise.
Half of the album’s clever orchestration is thanks to collaborator Daniel George Jr. The duo never miss a step as they maneuver their way around the LP. Fink’s greatest strength is its composition. Every ounce of the piercing melodies is never wasted. Each piece drops into place as you’d expect it to.