Tragic circumstances are imprinted all over Chicago outfit Slow Pulp’s debut Moveys. In fact, the album isn’t even the album originally intended for release, the original plan biting the dust so a series of life-changing events could capture the correct mood. Written whilst touring with Alex G, the first effort was scrapped and completely rewritten when singer Emily Massey saw an answer to her perpetual tiredness explained to her, doctors diagnosing her with both Lyme disease and a chronic mono. To add even more trauma to her life, her parents were then involved in a serious car accident.
Faced with having to come to terms with a completely new life direction and challenges therein, this rewriting was somewhat inevitable, as things previously seeming important suddenly became irrelevant. Thoughts then resulting in the self-produced, hauntingly subtle and poignant Moveys. In a sign of undoubted support for Massey that can only happen when friends are very tight-knit, her three fellow bandmates duly followed suit as their carefully laid plan was duly scrunched up and chucked into the bin.
Moveys follows a number of EPs, the most recent being 2019’s four-track Big Day. With the magnifying glass now a lot more self-focused, there’s some personal stuff here. Throughout the record, Massey’s gorgeously hushed vocal is the biggest asset on show as opener New Horse clearly demonstrates: the vocals are beautiful, as are the layers of blissful sound that create an intoxicating mix, the newly found self-awareness telling of needing to “treat myself better”.
Lead single Idaho is undoubtedly the album’s finest moment though, despite the track erroneously referencing the state instead of Colorado thanks to guitarist Henry Stoehr’s confusion. Fuzzy guitars and delay pedals provide an echoing, resonating feel whilst vocals float lightly above further enchanting guitars. Mazzy Star are inevitably recalled, the song tackling the subject of, according to Massey, “learning how to accept other people’s love when you don’t love yourself”. Another single, Falling Apart, is again impressive as self-critical lyrics tell of “feeling like a deadbeat”, and being so good at falling apart that they keep going back to it for a cut that nods to Cigarettes After Sex, not least because of the almost whispered vocal lightness.
An isolated guitar hook sounds a little like Feeder’s Just The Way I’m Feeling during Trade It before more whispery, wispy vocals delight amongst more minimalist sections and spidery, weaving guitar lines for a subtle thing of lush beauty. Track is another to provide sublime vocals where they marry with more fuzzily divine guitars for a laid back look at life changes. The acoustic backed Montana then utilises slide guitar and harmonica for a slight change, self-critical lyrics stating, “I’m a loser with no chance”.
Aside from the general push towards subtlety and beauty, Whispers (In The Outfield) lasts under two minutes with just piano on show, closer Movey offers a more hip-hop beat sounding like a gate-crasher to the party, whilst the excellent Channel 2 marries a slow beat, fuzzy guitar and male vocal for a grungy number where a mesmerising guitar line snakes around the fuzz.
At under 30 minutes, Moveys isn’t the longest of albums, and isn’t much longer than many bands’ EPs. That works to its benefit though, as there’s little time to get bored, and there’s a distinct feeling that too much of this would be overkill. But for half an hour, it’s perfect. It may have had a painful journey with hellish events at every turn but Moveys is, for the most part, heavenly.