This is Slow Pulp’s moment. At the end of September, the Chicago-by-way-of-Wisconsin band released their second album, “Yard.” Brimming with ’90s guitar riffs and catchy melodies, the album is nothing short of an artistic triumph. On the contrary, the album’s short but sharp collection of 10 tracks solidified Slow Pulp as one of the country’s best young bands. It’s clear that Slow Pulp is here to stay.
“We did our best to make the best album we could,” said band leader, guitarist and songwriter Emily Massey. “That becomes the most important part, and everything else is just kind of the cherry on top.”
Although the first iterations of some of the tracks on “Yard” began in 2020, Massey said the record began to take shape in the fall of 2021. After a student at the ballet school where he taught caught Covid-19 in 2021, Massey said that this record began to take shape in the fall of 2021. I start working on the record at a family friend’s cabin in Wisconsin.
“I thought it would be a writing retreat or some sort of attempt to be alone,” he recalled. “I felt like I had never been this alone. It was very shocking, very emotional and very visceral. “I didn’t expect to feel this much.”
Being alone helped him open up to himself emotionally. He felt freer in the writing process as there was no one to hide from, including himself. This first trip soon turned into a series of trips to focus on songwriting.
“I felt like I didn’t have a critic inside and I was allowed to be however I needed to be and I didn’t have to answer to others or try to be a certain way,” she added. “While I was away, I felt like I was able to learn how to trust myself and trust the ongoing process of failure until I hit what felt right.”
But even though he was alone and had time to reflect within himself, Massey said most of the songs on “Yard” were not about him. Due to his absence from other people’s lives during this time, he turned to the relationships and interpersonal dynamics that shaped the last few years of his life.
“I think being alone made me think about how lucky I am to be able to be comfortable in isolation because I know I have a lot of great people that I can come home to or come back to,” she said. “And I think the album is really about them.”
Massey cited his relationship with his parents as particularly influential. After being involved in a car accident in early March 2020, Massey returned home to Madison, Wisconsin. Then the COVID-19 quarantine began, growing from a few weeks to a few months.
Despite this change, Massey had plenty of time to work and create with his musician father. During this first quarantine, Slow Pulp was finishing its debut album. He said the experience helped strengthen their relationship. He repeated this experience during the creation of “Yard” when his father put his life on hold for nearly a month to work on the record.
“I think I took a lot of positives out of it because things could have gone differently for my family, but they didn’t,” Massey explained. “It really brought my family a lot closer together and my friendships really strengthened during that time too. “There are so many positive things that come out of this kind of darkness.”
In a year full of incredible new albums from Chicago musicians, “Yard” might be the year’s best. Dreamy and nostalgic, this 31-minute indie marvel exceeds many of the high expectations set by the band’s 2020 debut album. “Yard” is captivating and relatable with its earworm hooks and clear melodies. (There’s no way you can get “Slug” out of your head once you spin it.) For most listeners and this reviewer, “Yard” is an instant classic.
It’s no surprise, then, that the band has a relatively large following across the country. During our last interview, bandleader and songwriter Massey spoke by phone from the road in Washington, D.C. Slow Pulp (which also features Henry Stoehr, Teddy Mathews and Alex Leeds) is currently in the midst of their first major tour in support of a new tour. More than half of the album’s show dates were completely sold out.
There’s something about the band’s music that resonates with listeners young and old alike. Songs like “Cramps” and “Yard” sound like they were crafted to be the soundtrack to one’s life; He frames moments of joy, heartbreak, and awe with powerful wit.
“We weren’t sure if people would know the new songs but, like every night, we were shocked. People were really responsive or sang along and it was really nice,” Massey said. “We feel really lucky.”
Slow Pulp with Babehoven, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m., Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport St.; http://thaliahallchicago.com
Britt Julious is a freelance critic.