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Human People - "Butterflies Drink Turtle Tears" | Album Review


by Patrick Pilch (@pratprilch)

Human People’s music is often tagged as “punk” or “pop” preceded by an adjective denoting carelessness. Laura Kerry of Thrd Coast dubs the band’s breakout Veronica EP as “disinterested punk,” while Oh My Rockness contributor Patrick McNamara introduces the group as “lo-fi slop pop” (before encouraging readers to “think of something better.”) Well, here we are: face to face with Human People’s excellent slacker twee debut. Butterflies Drink Turtle Tears is a lo-fi punk hodgepodge built on barebones recording techniques, keen songwriting and a band’s remarkable sense of melody. Sure it may sound like Human People aren’t trying, but they sure as hell know what they’re doing.

With tighter arrangements and a greater sense of focus, Human People crank out a dozen punk-pop ditties brimming with ear-worming melodies and inescapable harmonies. Hooks are nuanced and numbered, pulling influence from only the finest moguls in punk, twee and indie rock. By combining the natural pop sensibilities of Tiger Trap and Washer with the panic-stricken punk of FITS and Josef K, Human People craft twelve personal, ragtag tracks that capture that directionless, early-20s angst.

Marisa Gershenhorn and Hayley Livingston trade off vocal duties, spurting lines about an automaton alter-ego, gloomy isolation and spiraling anxiety, repeatedly capturing what it’s like to be casually freaking the fuck out all of the time. The singer’s role as the pessimistic prophet predicts her demise on “California” and “Mood Swings,” while the knee-jerk deathwish of “Run Me Over” parallels its own optimistic Arthur Russell intro and starry-eyed chord progression. Both vocalists possess a nonchalant delivery mirroring Calvin Johnson’s blunt exasperation, highlighting the band’s charming low-pressure approach: too concerned to be dubbed careless, yet too impromptu to be deemed try-hard.

Unhinged rhythmics strike character and subtlety into “Jenny,” Turtle Tears’ Sleater Kinney-recalling high point. Marisa Gershenhorn’s gushing lyricism assembles an indestructible persona of nuts and bolts, blood and bile. Powered by a wildly unpretentious Frankenstein reference, the robotic dopplegänger reminds listeners, “I’m solid, I’m real/I’m a girl galvanized into steel.” The track’s particularly contagious background vocals go to show that a good chorus can become a great one with proper harmonic support, a facet that later adds an extra pop dimension on “Black Flowers” and weaves the closing vocal lines of “No Tides.”

For a fledgling band like Human People, Butterflies Drink Turtle Tears is an especially impressive debut. It’s fervent and honest, exhibiting the band’s intoxicating slop pop riffs and innate musical know-how. After a stellar introductory single and a pair of ear-catching EPs, Human People’s first proper full-length demonstrates a sharper, more adept band stepping out of their bedroom demo era and into the underground limelight. All in all, Butterflies Drink Turtle Tears is certainly solid and most definitely real.