Imagine that the Fever to Tell-era Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Waxahatchee, and the Coral Fang-era Distillers got together and decided to make a garage punk album, featuring blunt lyrics about love and unapologetic confessionals. Envision the wild version of punk that could come through, haunted by summers punctuated by heartbreak and euphoria, its metaphorical tears left drying on the pavement in Los Angeles.
If that sounds like a shimmering summer dreamscape of a listen, then KING BABY, the third release of Los Angeles babes feeling feelings, is going to saturate your world and stay stuck on repeat on your preferred listening apparatus.
Recorded by oft-lauded polymath Joel Jerome and featuring vocalist and guitarist Kate Dwyer, bassist Erika Paget, guitarist Jay Oligny, and drummer Penelope Gazin, KING BABY is an EP that is magnetic. In five songs, KING BABY unfurls into a glittering garage rock centerpiece, perfect for summer drives and drunken sing-a-longs over the skyline of Downtown Los Angeles. Or anywhere, for that matter; KING BABY transports the listener right into the arms of the city.
Starting out the gates with “namaste,” a song mere seconds short of two minutes, feeling feelings brings clever lyricism to a tidy but rowdy instrumental arrangement. With lyrics like “I don’t want to meet your mom/but I’ll meet your dad, he seems real fun,” feeling feelings creates a track that is simultaneously fun and carefree, but then ends on a more woebegone moment: “I’m not gonna die/Spending my time,/spending my time on you.” It is this kind of juxtaposition that makes “namaste,” as well as the rest of KING BABY, more complex than the usual garage rock outfit.
The song from which the album gets its namesake, “king baby,” is a sweet ditty to the singer’s love interest, who appears to be unaware of her attraction. The track features anaphora in a way that anchors the song well; the term “king baby” is unusual, and Dwyer’s breathy but simultaneously smooth vocals make it enchanting in its repetition.
“tarzana” diverges slightly from the previous two tracks, with Dwyer and Oligny bringing in heavier guitar riffs and Paget complementing and strengthening the track on bass. Gazin’s drumming moves closer and closer to punk. Dwyer’s vocals are more diverse on this track, including well-placed yells juxtaposed with her smoother singing. Once again, feeling feelings tackles the uncertainty of love in a way that is compelling, all the while being entertaining.
The strongest track, in my opinion, is the penultimate song, “hospital.” While the other songs leading up to this are excellent in all ways, “hospital” feels the most fleshed out. It is almost as if the rest of the work has been building up to this point. “hospital” is extremely poignant, in which the singer alludes to being “on something all the time” and “wanting something all the time.” It’s an honest portrayal of feeling bad, and being caught in a space where everyone around you thinks/knows you’re fine, but you’re not. It feels like the most relatable song on the EP, and perhaps the darkest, but the band creates space within the sound for the listener to float in and avoid the drowning that appears to be befalling the singer.
KING BABY concludes with “september 1985,” which moves closer to “tarzana” in musical arrangement. Equipped with the hard-hitting punk musicianship of feeling feelings, Dwyer builds gloriously discordant lyrics about running away from an issue. Subject matter included features coping mechanisms like drinking and running away from problems. It’s the honesty of “september 1985,” much like the rest of KING BABY, that makes it such a great track.
The band strives to openly admit things that perhaps the rest of us are too afraid to boldly state about our own lives. “What am I doing here?” surfaces throughout the song, and feels like the questing phrase, a question feeling feelings is asking throughout KING BABY. And, while we do not find an answer within the EP, the listener’s journey with feeling feelings is rough and beautiful, carved out of lived experiences and the pains of being alone and unsure in a rapidly changing life.