Sorry for the Late Reply
Dear Reader, let me start by saying that our experiences of Sløtface’s new album will be quite dissimilar. Why? You see, Haley Shea (frontwoman and lyricist) is my older cousin who I have looked up to since the day I could say those words. At the same time, I have done a fair deal of writing about music, and without further ado, I present to you a somewhat sentimental and unequivocally enthusiastic review of their new album, Sorry for the Late Reply. [Editor’s note: My experiences of both this review and Sløtface’s new album will also be dissimilar. Why? You see, Haley Shea is my niece. So, too, is Emily Dombrovskaya. And there, just to the right, on the cover of the album? That’s my brother-in-law, Bill, holding an infant Haley back in the day.]
From the first second of the opening track you can tell that this is a new direction for the band. They have gracefully made the transition from ‘Adventuring in our backyard’ on 2017’s Try Not to Freak Out to exploring deeply personal and political topics with real insight and sick drums. While Shea has said that ‘the album’s themes ended up not being as clear cut as [she] had envisioned,’ there is an incredible thematic pull to this album. Sløtface explores the wide tension between closeness and insurmountable distance in a fast-paced and disconnected world.
In the beautiful punk tradition of making it impossible to sit still while listening to outraged songs with a strong political bend, ‘S.U.C.C.E.S.S.’ and ‘Passport’ tackle xenophobia and displacement with rage and responsibility. The line “I’m more than my passport / but it’s a part of me,” feels like a response to American liberals talking about moving to Canada in 2016, having this mobility to walk away from problems–this song has a sense of political urgency, a call to action for the collective good. I was also interested in the reference to the horrific history of the American idea of Manifest Destiny (especially in light of recent responses to Panic! At the Disco and a certain presidential candidate tied to the term). Sløtface do not rest on the laurels of their lyrics alone. Guitarist Tor-Arne Vikingstad and bassist Lasse Lokøy lay down cool riffs, with a distinct rev that propels Shea’s vocals with impressive impact, and all of this is driven by new drummer, Nils Jørgen Nilsen.
As dazzling as these political songs are, the tracks which were truly striking to me, were ‘Stuff’ and ‘Luminous,’ back-to-back explorations of romantic feelings. Although the first marks an end of a relationship and the latter is an exploration of something scary and new, they share an honesty. ‘Stuff’ has a whistling, rhythmic force, paired with a whaling riff that compliments the cool, reflective lyrical content. On the topic of ‘Luminous,’ Shea says, ‘I’ve always been a bit scared to attempt an actual heart-felt, sincere love song, because I just thought there are so many good ones out there.’ This results in a really carefully crafted, earnest, butterfly-stirring love song anyone would be lucky to receive on a mixtape from a crush. The verses have more noodling guitar bits with a singer-songwriter influence than any of the band’s other songs, a direction they take on in stride.
Sløtface are all grown up, and it’s a joy to see them in their wheelhouse. Between phone calls and funerals, environmental catastrophe and teflon pans, returning to an empty apartment and intertwining lives with others, there is hopefulness and brightness to Sorry for the Late Reply.