by Chris Hatch
Post Louis’ debut album has been a long time coming. The alt-indie five-piece started releasing material as early as 2013, and a slew of EPs and singles over the intervening seven years have meant that their career so far has been more than a little bit stop-start. Luckily, Descender is worth the wait, and finds them at their most proficient and ambitious.
Written, recorded, and rehearsed in between working a myriad of laborious day jobs, Descender has the fraught and frayed feel of a person stretched to their limits. Each song seems to thrash and flail along the indie music spectrum from sub genre to sub genre – mood swinging around in an overworked fashion, and never being comfortable in the same spot. Yet, despite this reluctance to settle, the ideas within the record tessellate together beautifully – guitar parts, backing vocals, and layers of feedback wrap around each other and intertwine, without tripping themselves up.
Opening track, Fishwife, almost feels like shorthand for the album as a whole – its opening, chiming guitars weave together enticingly before lead singer, Stephanie Davin, asks ‘How do you stop an overflow?’ – a question that Post Louis seem to be pondering throughout the record, as they wrestle with the modern day dilemma of having too much to do in too little time. It would seem that, on Fishwife at least, the answer is not to stop the overflow, but to let it wash over you – as the song reaches its crescendo a tidal wave of noisecore guitar wails and thundering drums are released, and Davin’s vocals switch from mildly-frustrated to downright-pissed-off.
The album is mainly made up of poppy, angular alt-90s songs like the blistering Like Bad Dreams, where scuzzy, Dinosaur Jr-style riffs create a rough pop backdrop for Davin’s teetering-on-the brink vocals. There are, however, enough branching off points to keep you guessing and add a layer of complexity to the album – like the infectious Ghostwriter– where moribund lyrics lurk behind bright, sparkling guitars, or Janaskie Pt 1, which starts off as a loose, breezy track before its final third knocks you off your feet with a deluge of 65daysofstatic/Mogwai-style post-rock.
Musically, Post Louis capture that exhausted, over caffeinated feeling of burning the candle at both ends perfectly, but lyrically things can get a little bit lost. When Davin was formulating these songs, the Me Too movement was at its peak, and this both overwhelmed and inspired her, going on to help shape some of the albums lyrics – it’s a shame then that her thoughts are sometimes buried under shifting song structures or beneath layered guitar lines.
Descender is a hard album to pin down, but that’s a good thing. Post Louis have a habit of leading you just far enough off the beaten trail to make you feel a little bit scared, and a little bit excited without leaving you completely lost; each band member teasing you into following their own little journey – and while Descender’s visceral alt-rock spine is the initial driving force behind its success, it’s these detours and wrong turns that will keep you hooked.
Secret Meeting score: 80