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Gum Country - Somewhere Music Album Reviews

The duo of guitarist Courtney Garvin and drummer Connor Mayer make deranged twee psych-pop, anxious and sometimes goofy songs fit for isolation in unfamiliar surroundings. 

Somewhere, the debut record from the slightly deranged twee psych-pop duo Gum Country, is the product of a move from Vancouver to Los Angeles and the uncertainty and anxiety that comes with living in a new place. The brainchild of guitarist Courtney Garvin of the Courtneys and drummer Connor Mayer, Somewhere embraces lo-fi aesthetics and wry lyrics about visualization exercises, vegging out, and feeling on the verge of falling asleep behind the wheel of life. The record is as ironic as it is fun, where goofiness is the answer to anxiety in the face of isolation and new beginnings.
Gum Country’s music lies in the sweet spot between Stereolab’s loopy grooves and the snarky yet sweet songs of the Magnetic Fields. With its impeccable bass groove and warm, vintage organs, the opener and title track is the kind of lo-fi punk you can dance to like a Peanuts character. Its lyrics describe the simultaneous fear and excitement of acquainting oneself with a new place: “Haven’t felt this way in a while/I can’t think straight, can’t find my style/I guess this is my life for a while,” Garvin sings with a chilled-out, cartoonish attitude. Finding your footing in the great big world is a nauseating exercise, she suggests, but worth it in the end. The sentiment is enshrouded by layers of distortion and delay, requiring time to parse out her words. More often than not, it’s worth it.

Gum Country engage directly with the things we do when we’re alone, an experience that can be wildly monotonous to the point of insanity. On “Brain Song,” Garvin unselfconsciously calls out a few influences: “Sunset on my back/Kate Bush/Fleetwood Mac,” goes one line, as casual as a grocery list. On “Talking to My Plants,” Garvin sings about the anxiety of isolation with a bone-dry sense of humor. “I’m talking to my plants/Or are they talking to me?” she asks. Then a plant speaks: “I am a plant/Please give me water/And lots of sunlight.” It’s an exchange plucked from a hot summer afternoon by yourself, when you start to anthropomorphize the only other living thing in the room.

At times, Somewhere hits a lull. The record stretches out too long and flirts with monotony in its own right. Some songs inch toward the directly personal, but never quite goes all the way. Lyrics tend to be fragmented, and Garvin’s aesthetic choices often distort her vocals until you can’t quite make out what she’s saying. The choices fit the record’s scrappy ethos, but it would be interesting to see Garvin be more direct. Somewhere is as its best when Garvin bares her teeth and uses her sense of humor to talk about what is haunting her, be it spending far too much time alone, or trying to find your place on new ground.
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