Soren Bryce’s Tummyache project owes a number of musical debts, to be sure, but it is pretty nifty none of them are readily identifiable. Moreover, despite the project’s alternative rock pedigree, they aren’t even exclusively within the wheelhouse of guitar-centric songwriting. She has an outstanding voice capable of inhabiting many styles, but she proves repeatedly over the course of Humpday’s five tracks she possesses the necessary chops to make guitar rock fans sit up and take notice. Her varied presentation on multiple levels makes these tracks stand out more than they might have in the hands of a lesser performer and band and the dramatic sound of the individual tracks gives her lyrics extra impact.
The first song “Machine” is one of Humpday’s most aggressive efforts. Tummyache’s guitar heavy tracks possess a quasi-punk quality and it manifests itself during the opener stronger than anywhere else on the EP. The furious guitar near the song’s end doesn’t necessarily qualify as a solo, in the traditional sense of the term, but it does beef up the maelstrom of sound defining the second half of this cut. “Machine” has a chaotic character that expands more and more with each passing minute and begins Humpday on an intense note.
Tummyache changes things up with the EP’s second track. The release’s title song has a fast pace like the first and less of an emphasis on distorted textures like those that we hear in the opener. It is much airier, in comparison, despite the tempo. I connect with Bryce’s lyrics and the conversational quality they take, but she has a keen instinct for mixing effective imagery and “action” into her writing further distinguishing the words here and weaving through other tracks. The vocals are notable for an array of reasons, she once again balances vulnerability with raw physicality, but the production reinforces her impact double-tracking her singing at assorted points.
“Commonplace” takes a different approach than the earlier songs. There is a threatening undercurrent running through this performance, never pronounced, and the focus on the rhythm section imbues this performance with a level of sonic gravitas lacking in the first two tracks. “Commonplace” boasts some of the EP’s finest lyrics and much of what they accomplish is through implication – I would like five people to listen to the track, concentrating on its lyrical content, and I bet 2-3 out of the five arrive at different interpretations. Possibly more.
“Median” is one of two songs on the EP receiving music video treatment. The video confines itself to a mix of performance footage and conceptual imagery that doesn’t lock into the track’s lyrical content but proves nonetheless intriguing. It is reminiscent, in some ways, of the EP opener, but doesn’t have the same boisterous identity. “In Between”, the last song on Humpday, is the second track with an accompanying video. The promotional clip underlines the personal nature of this song and it rates as by far my favorite moment on the EP.
It develops in a patient fashion and wavers between crystal clarity and moments awash with distorted guitar. The emotional tenor of the lyrics is more expansive than the previous four tunes and has all the qualities we associate with curtain closers – it is as if Bryce surveys the emotive terrain behind her for a last time and provides listeners with a wide open summation of the experiences and feelings she poured into this release. Humpday is a superlative release that, despite including only five songs, packs the wallop of any full length release.
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