Slow And Steady
Considering Broken Circles’s fancy for grotesque pop music, Slow and Steady has always felt like the label’s outlier. Here, amid the swaggering R&B and hypnotizing shoegaze, the Big Muff and Super Chorus pedals, singer and guitarist Jacob Lawter strums his sad chords as he croons his sad songs—no dissonance, no noise, no knowing smirk. Indeed, the Nashville, TN band’s 2015 debut In Time We Belong felt like it might have fit on a label reveling in emo’s so-called revival.
It’s Alright, Slow and Steady’s most recent EP, feels different, though—more mature, or maybe just straighter, simpler. Certainly, all three songs reverberate with vague nostalgia; certainly, Lawter’s guitars glisten with a chorus-like shimmer. In fact, at first glance, Slow and Steady’s latest seems to more closely fit Broken Circle’s aesthetic.
If nothing else, Lawter’s lyrics seem more serene. In the first lines of “Without Thinking,” the EP’s opening track, he sings, “Now and then, I think back / To my worst year wistfully / And I wonder how I got here.” Before the end of the very first verse, however, he admits, “But I don’t think about those things much anymore,” and it becomes clear that Slow and Steady’s melancholy has burned off. “Without Thinking” is a satisfied sigh, a song about seeking and finding comfort, and it feels that way; though his guitar rambles like a long-lost friend desperate to catch up, Lawter sings at a patient, contemplative pace, his melody bright and sweet.
Though the rest of the EP’s seems a little more solemn, It’s Alright never loses this serenity. Take “Couple Gigs of Ram,” which tells a story of someone who loses a job after twenty loyal years. Despite these circumstances, its ornamental piano and amiable drumbeat keep the song from feeling too dire or desperate—and, like a Randy Newman or Andy Shauf song, keeps it focused on the characters, the conflict, the story. By contrast, the “It’s Alright” is all electricity and momentum—all mood—with its Rhodes piano and persistent bass, its skewering guitar lead. Here, Slow and Steady sounds more curious and unconventional than ever before.
Of course, the irony is that, on a label like Broken Circles—which releases post-punk records alongside scintillating electronic pop and dusty, unironic country—there’s no such thing as an outlier, which is why Slow and Steady has always fit right in. Still, It’s Alright finds Lawter maintaining his musical identity while stretching himself as a songwriter. Attribute it to experience or evolution, maturation or mutation—it’s interesting to see Slow and Steady playing grotesque pop music.