STOMACH BOOK’s first album heralds a new direction for modern emo, bringing a fiery, painful energy to the scene. The Indiana-based artist is ready to show the world her unhinged, cathartic sound.
I first met STOMACH BOOK a couple years ago, the internet bringing us close together despite the physical distance between us. It was easy to tell even back then that she had this insane passion for music – a limitless hunger to explore and experiment with sound. It brings me so much joy to finally see her years of work come to fruition, with what is absolutely her magnum opus so far. “STOMACH BOOK”, her self-titled album, travels through various genres and moods with ease, all while keeping in the same dark, tortured sound.
“Animals” opens with a thumping, dark bassline, accompanied by dirty, violent drums. The entire production ethos of the album is to be as destructive and experimental as possible, wrapping everything in distortion to create a pounding, angry tone. The song establishes the mood of the album instantly – a tribute to the worst parts of the human psyche. In her own words, STOMACH BOOK describes the album as “a way for me to process trauma and explore the beauty in suffering”, adding on “I hope to present the darkest parts of myself and the human experience, and hopefully it provides a catharsis that makes us all feel a little less alone”. This emphasis on trauma, paranoia, and distress is palpable in every beat of her music. In “Animals”, her voice carries an unhinged and strained tone, singing with an almost scream-like energy, but never quite letting it all out. She feels restrained or boxed in, fitting the angry and unhinged atmosphere of the song.
The standout track for me is “Ode”, hooking the listener with a solid guitar groove and harsh chords. The fast pace and constant flood of background samples create a noisy, anxious sound – as though STOMACH BOOK is treading water, barely keeping herself in check. The vocals in this one are perhaps the most unhinged so far, with lines like “you know those cigarettes are gonna murder you someday” spat out in an almost mocking tone. The music begs to be understood, with every aspect of the production showing all the unfiltered emotions she wants to convey – it’s hard to look away. She explains that the album “began in between panic attacks in my dorm room at college”, which is the exact atmosphere the music brings to mind. With every listen, I’m taken to the exact headspace the music was written in, as though I’m right there with her. There’s a sense of catharsis in this, as STOMACH BOOK herself put it. Her effort to shine a light on dark subjects and express her fears and insecurities is commendable, and even empowering at times. The music itself seems to understand this, with bombastic brass and wailing shoegaze guitars lifting up the final chorus of “Ode”. The stress and anxiety is still there, but the focus is on releasing and celebrating those feelings, rather than burying them.
You would be forgiven for thinking brass, shoegaze guitars, reed organs, or any of the plethora of instruments STOMACH BOOK uses would clash with the Emo sound. This seems to be a conscious effort on her part to introduce fresher and weirder sounds to the genre. There has been a movement, especially in 5th Wave Emo, to bring new life to the genre through genre-mixing and experimentation. Popular bands like Glass Beach or Twinkle Park have brought orchestral instruments to the mix, with some songs taking a further step towards chiptune and synth-pop. Similarly, artists like Weatherday, who famously recorded an entire album on an iPhone, have helped open the floodgates for bedroom producers and independent youths to shout their feelings out online. STOMACH BOOK stands at the crossroads here, crafting her own niche in the genre by expanding the musical palette to include baroque instruments, glitchy samples, and childlike recorders and music boxes. She brings a folk sound to emo – perhaps as part of her ethos to make music that is communal and shared.
A fair comparison would be the music of Kenshi Yonezu, one of STOMACH BOOK’s main inspirations. Both artists create a carnival-esque atmosphere, with marching-band drums and polka rhythms. The song “Our Story” shows this well, the traditional emo guitars and drums juxtaposing the swelling reed organs, twinkling glockenspiel, and flamenco-like guitar. In particular the lyrics “they’d cut up my stomach and fill it with stones” bring to mind some sort of twisted nursery rhyme, sung with an innocent air. It would be hard to pinpoint any one genre as a direct influence, as the album moves through many timbres and writing styles with ease, essentially creating something entirely new. In one album, STOMACH BOOK establishes her own niche, and fills it with enough fresh and engaging music to define herself as someone to watch out for in the scene. I’m already obsessed, and I’m sure her debut album will be one I return to for years to come.
Listen to “STOMACH BOOK” here.
– Gray (@polygoncove) (Staff Writer)