“drive-by lullabies” is anxious and impulsive with a core of vulnerability; it carries the pain of growing up in the spotlight with a sardonic smile.
Trying to really get “drive-by lullabies” takes some reckoning. The long-awaited debut album from quinn – formerly known as osquinn, cat mother, and a loose handful of other names well-known and obscure – at first feels like a list of ‘fuck you’s. quinn makes a habit of lashing out at her audience. 2020’s “i hate it here” begins with 3 seconds of crippling noise but has as many million plays. It must be frustrating to create with such anger and still be treated as a curiosity, because these 14 tracks get even more belligerent; shades of noise stain tracks like opener “The World Is Ending Soon!” indiscriminately, and dynamics are unpredictable to a volatile point. At the start of “silly” quinn sings “I’ve got a bone to pick with the big boss, will I disown the shit that I’ve been on?”, painting her prior discography purges as a self-immolating attack on gluttonous listeners and corporate algorithms.
quinn’s frustration is understandable. As an audience we critique and discuss quinn’s work in spite of our anonymity, anchored by the artist in question; inversely at just 16 years old quinn is surrounded by a ring of faceless voices. Softer moments hurry this understanding along and illustrate the weight of quinn’s world. After an overwhelming first act “birthday girl” is stark and jittery like adrenal tears. “school days” is a bit more communicative – “I fuck up more than most, you fuck up more than less” is one of many lines showcasing quinn’s incisive pen. On past songs these incisions were flashy, a show of swordsmanship, here they cut through layers of armour and sarcasm to something a lot less boastful and a lot more fragile. “change that” speaks to a love interest, but it’s impossible to not feel the spotlight burning into lines like “Do you like my style? Do you like the way I talk to you? If not I can change that”. This deconstruction does not happen in real time. “lullabies” intentionally fractures timelines, events, and stories. Quinn keeps hold of the reality beneath the music by making it indecipherable – if it makes sense to her why care about anyone else?
Highly composite songs are the lifeblood of “lullabies”. quinn’s talent for arrangement is more active than ever, leading to a fantastically gripping listen. “12/25/18” is claggy and unventilated, quinn’s hyper-compressed voice pushing through the mix with viscosity. There’s immense tension between the looping phrase “got my hands on the wheel”, the sampled refrain “crush it up”, and telling new additions of derailed, rough, and crashing noise. On repeat listens “The World Is Ending Soon” is also full of irony as quinn double-crosses the album’s hefty content. Her chipper voice carries nonchalance and extremity; “I’ll be your nothing something, or your forever nothing, but I’m a sheep in the herd either way”.
Whilst tonally unique, this record sees impressive development in quinn’s production. Prodigal attention to detail informs nearly every song. “from paris, with love” is incredible, a titanic blitz of electricity over which quinn sounds threatened and defensive; she’s sharp as ever, stereophonic, and macabre. At the last corner “from paris” turns into disquieting dubstep. quinn fills the album with these last-minute switches. Sometimes, like at the end of “perfect imperfection”, they’re an attempt to retell a fractured truth. Elsewhere they feel like cynical and retaliatory attempts to stun the thousands of watchers she can’t see. The sarcastically titled “and now a word from our sponsors” catches this practice at an unstable point; towers of low frequencies and sound effects collapse into the plainly beautiful finale. “You tear me open from inside the core, tell me is that what you wanted?” sings quinn in a floating register. She never gets a chance to be alone.
On “drive-by lullabies” quinn both defends and displays her life with finesse. “birthday girl”, with its spare landscape of piano and nature sounds, follows and contrasts the three hardest hitting tracks. Each brings lyrics that should urge compassionate listening. Bars like “dodging the shadows, see you in the gallows” and “camouflaged, can’t see shit” are troubling to say the least, and the lead single “coping mechanism” is puncturing; “You have to comfort me, have you seen enough people die?”. In the ensuing space listeners are given a chance to reflect on the nature of their consumption, on how the privilege of such introspective art shouldn’t be taken for granted, and, especially in the case of young artists, on where power should lie in the relationship between artist and audience. Whilst quinn addresses her audience she’s rightfully less invested in educating them; this album is first and foremost her journey, she probably isn’t that bothered if we get it or don’t. On coping mechanism she sings “I don’t wanna hear what you gotta say to me” – in these crucial assertive moments everything seems to make sense.
Listen to “drive-by lullabies” here.
– Jamie (Managing Editor @108MICS)