Clover Koval, 'Me and the Animals' | Album Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Clover Koval, 'Me and the Animals'

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Published June 1, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.


(Self-released, digital)

Of all the Vermont-based acts to perform at this year's Waking Windows music and arts festival, Clover Koval was among my top picks. I'd never seen her play, but I remembered digging her 2019 EP, Spatial Awareness, and was eager to put a face to the voice on the record. But then I caught the plague two days before the fest and couldn't go. It was a dark weekend for me.

It was also a huge bummer not to hear the material from Koval's recently released debut full-length album, Me and the Animals, in person. The Burlington singer-songwriter composes with a charming outlook full of wry humor and frankness. There's a bit of the legendary Jenny Lewis in her work. Koval brings her songs to life with dynamic arrangements while zigzagging through jazz-inflected indie rock, quiet ballads and surging power-pop. In addition to guitar, bass and synth, she also plays the trumpet, unlike many of her ilk.

Koval has a way with words. Throughout the album's 10 tracks, she frequently sharpens her confessional lyrics with a comedic edge. She's a bit self-deprecating, and when she takes others down she does so gently and with a magnanimous touch.

For instance, on the mid-tempo "You Smell," she starts with a frank analysis: "I love you, but you smell really bad." She draws out the last word and repeats it over a nearly whispered tick of programmed drums and sheets of softly filtered lead and rhythm guitar. By the short song's end, she decides, "It's kind of cute / So I'm really not that mad."

On the jaunty "I Wonder (Apocalypse Jam)," Koval puts herself in the crosshairs. She opens the tune with, "I wonder every night when I go to bed / If I'm going to hell for using so much plastic." Over lightly shuffled drums and springy acoustic guitars, she contemplates end-of-the-world scenarios that conclude with "a billionaire-funded flight" — presumably to Mars on a SpaceX rocket.

The song perfectly encapsulates Koval's headspace. On Bandcamp, she writes that her work exemplifies the Gen Z experience, particularly feelings of depression, climate-change anxiety and existential confusion. Those are hardly new topics for singer-songwriters. But Koval centers them without obfuscating, as do many twentysomething artists.

The final cut, "Adrenaline Junkie," stands out. Its brash guitars and kinetic drums symbolize the story Koval tells. "You're getting off on the risk of it all / There's nothing more climactic than a free fall," she sings with burning energy. The person she describes is dangerous — she needs to "sign a waiver just to go out with" them. She closes with the perfect punch line: "Risking living fast and dying young / Sounds like way too much fun for me."

Koval is one of the sharpest new voices in Vermont's music scene. She mines fertile territory, presenting a range of emotional ore that shines in daylight and glows in the dark.

Me and the Animals is available at chloekoval.bandcamp.com.

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