- Adam Wolf, Songs I/II
(Self-released, digital download)
Sometimes you're lucky enough to encounter an album that not only resonates with you on an emotional level but also perfectly captures and mirrors the world around you at the moment you first hear it. To wit: For months on end, Vermont's wintry pallor ranges merely from ghostly to alabaster, and the metaphorical weight of continuous precipitation can leave you feeling strangled — especially when a thaw's momentary relief is stifled by yet another snowfall. The same washed-out bleakness and unbearable suffocation pervade Adam Wolf's debut EP, Songs I/II.
You may know the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist as Adam Wolinsky, bassist in Burlington's slumber-core quartet Sleeping In and drummer in metal band Wolfhand. Here, the 26-year-old introduces us to his lupine, country-shoegaze solo project. Similarities exist between the EP and Sleeping In's 2017 debut LP, Let You In, such as thick riffs and a crushing sense of despair. But the pace of Wolinsky's premiere barely rises above a seasoned marathon runner's resting heart rate — unlike the sometimes-spastic velocity at which Let You In sears by.
The St. Albans native's guitar and drum work smolders in a perpetual haze. Lap steel, courtesy of Ben Chussid, lurks in the crevices of the album's elemental rock sounds, adding a spectral quality. Throughout, Wolinsky's lyrics are dry, obtuse and self-effacing. He touts the collection as country, yet he creates a space independent of the genre's associative elements. It's a lovely and compelling union of grungy disillusionment and despondent twang.
On "Voyeur," Wolinksy casts aspersions on himself, the song's titular character. He craves closeness but likens his feelings to something perverse. Perhaps it's a coping mechanism: Sometimes it's easier to punish yourself for your feelings than it is to explore what's behind them.
"Rooted" drowns in an onerous bog of throbbing riffs and low-key cascades of cymbals. Wolinksy sings of fighting lethargy, but the billowing mass of sound he creates implies he's losing the battle. The artist's desperation peaks as his vocals soar and plummet, only to be washed away by swells of jagged chords.
Arguably the most "country" song included, "Not the Light" features picked guitar more prominently than the EP's other four tracks, as well as a slight uptick in tempo. We find Wolinksy processing the pain in the world around him and — big surprise — taking it out on himself: "Your life's been hard / Even though I wanted to pick you up / I let you down."
Songs I/II is a thunderous, gloomy introduction to the work of an indelible new artist. He pulls off a tricky feat: Despite his dour tone, he spins his personal grief into something truly comforting.
Songs I/II is available at adamwolfmusic.bandcamp.com. Adam Wolf celebrates his EP release on Friday, February 16, at the Monkey House in Winooski.