Gum Country, “Somewhere”
The debut album from Canadian rock duo Gum Country is like an escaped helium-filled balloon. Courtney Garvin, of the Keanu Reeves–loving Vancouver group The Courtneys, and multi-instrumentalist Connor Mayer fuse sunny surf-rock melodies and downcast distortion for what they describe as “harsh twee” on Somewhere. The album’s twelve tracks roam across tennis courts and over parties that it doesn’t want to attend. There’s no desired route or specified destination for Garvin and Mayer, but they use their frisky tunes as a container for restless thinking.
Gum Country are at their best on Somewhere when anxious energy is converted into humorous anecdotes for mental health obstacles. On “Tennis (I Feel OK),” a leisurely sportsman’s game is turned into a horrific rally of never-ending thoughts. “Hit the ball until I rot,” Garvin sings, her vocals apathetically buzzing. Later, she anthropomorphizes a crumb stuck in her throat (“There’s a Crumb”) and the plants that she takes care of (“Talking to My Plants”). On the latter, her vocals sound like they’re trying to parse their way out of seaweed underwater when she asks her green sprouts what they need. Despite it opening with a very plant-related inquiry about sun and water, the verse ends rather relatably human: “I’m growing so quickly / My friends all around me.”
Somewhere is a shredded up diary. Mundane activities or unspectacular memories sometimes feel weighed down by Garvin’s deadpan tone, as if she’s reading straight off the page. When gravel-pounding distortion comes to electrify the tracks, sometimes her voice becomes completely lost, derailing brilliant lyricism. Even beyond the playful instrumental shifts on “Tennis” and “Brain Song,” Gum Country seed their songs with head-cocking moments of clarity and sly pop cultural quips. Although sometimes tedious or muffled in song-structure, Somewhere is worth the wade into its obscure depths.