(Self-released, cassette, digital)
Memorials are meant to serve as a reminder of what was — to keep us from forgetting our pasts. They are not, historically, introductions to something new. In that sense, Memorial is a curiously disruptive title for a debut album. But then again, Thus Love are a curiously disruptive band. Holding space for complexity is Thus Love's specialty, and it only makes sense that this is the context in which the wider world meets them.
Listening to the Brattleboro-based trio, you can easily trick yourself into believing that what you're hearing isn't a 2022 release but a lost, underground LP found tucked away in the new-wave or post-punk bins of your favorite record store. For all its nods to past musical lineages, Memorial has a DIY quality that feels entirely its own — because it is. Band members Echo Mars, Lu Racine and Nathaniel van Osdol recorded the album's 10 tracks in a makeshift studio that they constructed in the rented apartment they share in downtown Brattleboro.
That the band members live and create in such close quarters may explain how Thus Love have honed in on such a cohesive sound — and message. From opening track "Repetitioner" to album highlight "Anathema," these songs are concerned with loneliness, wreckage and grief. However, they are equally if not more concerned with how we keep growing after we encounter these things. Over Johnny Marr-like riffs on "Repetitioner," Mars sings, "This is an ending / But please don't worry." The line could be Memorial's epigraph.
Thus Love have found ways to rise above pain in their own lives, as well. Mars, Racine and van Osdol are each transgender and came of age in poor, rural communities in which they often felt isolated and unlike their peers. However, these struggle-filled years built the foundation for their strong musical and personal bonds.
For all of the record's more serious overtones, there is also a great deal of room for play. On "Family Man," Thus Love deliver tongue-in-cheek commentary on modern capitalist society and our place in it. On "Pith and Point," Mars utters clever quips such as "Jesus Christ / One died for their own sins." One would be remiss to talk about Thus Love and not acknowledge the influence of David Bowie. Mars' voice embraces a Bowie-like flair for melodrama and quirk, especially in its lower registers. This is most apparent on "Crowd," the upbeat, fast-driving track hailing from outer space dreamscapes fit for Ziggy Stardust.
The album's title track arrives at the very end and is a three-plus-minute soaring instrumental number. Depending on what ear one listens with, one can hear angst — or healing.
Thus Love, of course, implore you to hear both.
Thus Love play the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge in South Burlington on Sunday, December 11. Memorial is available at thuslove.bandcamp.com.