by Abigail Miglorie (@abigailmiglorie)
Listening to Seattle’s The Berries for the first time will place you in an intersection of nostalgia, mood, and genre. Their latest ten-track LP Berryland, released via Run For Cover, continues with the band’s bending of orthodox spheres of music, hinting at mid-1990s alternative rock, a touch of southern twang and Americana in a territory of desire and dreams designed for good times among the bad.
Organized by frontman Matt Berry, who already started to make a name for himself in West Coast-based bands (Happy Diving, Big Bite), his latest project continues to diverge from the theme of traditional rock oddities. Berryland emerges after a handful of demos, among them their 2018 debut LP Start All Over Again which draws on the influences of a dark Seattle winter and musically represents a vision of Berry’s path to find balance in his artistry. The Berries are a clean-cut B-side version of Berry’s noise rock excursions with a professional spin. The way the album is mixed lets you into Berry’s newfound musical freedom and an assured sense of musical identity trickles throughout the entire album.
Berryland may support solely Berry’s lyrical concerns whereas his other rock outfits lean more on tone and guitars but this time his vocals lament his more nihilistic side of songwriting. If you’re familiar with any of Big Bite’s sonic heavy chord progressions and distortion, you’ll immediately be thrown into Berry’s aura of previous projects and current impressions of garage rock and fuzz captured in the album’s lead track “Makes Me Sick.” The song embarks upon Berry’s multi-faceted curiosity with sound. His punk roots are quite alive here; alternating among his southern-like vocals and twangy riffs with an occasional guitar shrill that he knows his audience probably expects from him, mirrored by a slow rhythm and groove that are key to the album’s pulse. “Lowest Form of Life” follows with a melancholic guitar kick with Berry singing afloat society’s harsh realities of our modern world.
That’s how The Berries take you for a cerebral spin, the album allows you to sit back and look introspectively at our surrounding realities while riding the wave of deep bass lines and a hallucinatory beat that reminds you to listen and wake to the world we are surrounded in. Tracks like “Fruit,” “Passing Scene,” and “Heavy Rain” are a couple of Berry’s unconventional heart beak odes featuring his notorious slide guitar and some of his most experimental harmonies that remind you what he is all about and what The Berries strive to create collectively. The oscillation between Berry’s guitar bravado and songwriting punctuates the precarious line surrounding genres and social context. The Berries challenge the optimism and fatalism of music but for them, that sounds about right.