by Jack Washburn ’16
“Slacker rock” – or some other variation of that implication – is a term I see often applied to Boston-based trio Krill, but frankly, I don’t buy it. The group has been steadily cranking out remarkably consistent releases over the past several years, has a new album on the horizon, and tours all the time. In fact, Krill’s upcoming show at the Horn on Friday will mark the band’s second appearance at Kenyon this year alone since performing last February with Ava Luna. I’ve never doubted the sincerity of singer Jonah Furman’s yelped style and hard-hitting lyrics, both of which evoke the manic energy of bands like the Pixies and Kickball more so than Pavement or Sebadoh. And with angular guitars and fairly complicated, slightly math-y tendencies, the band is simply too precise and tight live to be bothered with any “slacker” accusations. Krill rules, and you’d be doing yourself a favor by heading down to the trio’s tasty show on Friday.
I saw Krill a few times this summer in Boston and each time, the band stuck largely to brand new, unreleased material from its upcoming album. This can be disappointing when expecting to hear familiar songs, but Krill’s new goods are so satisfying that the trio’s decision seemed like the right choice. The hooks in the new songs are still there, but it’s clear that the band is going for something a lot more expansive that stands a little taller in stature and tells more of a complete narrative. Expect a good amount of new material at the show, but if you aren’t familiar with Krill’s back catalog, please, by all means, read on. I tried my best to compile my seven favorite Krill songs as a sort of primer, but picking seven favorite Krill tracks is like picking seven of your 30 children.
1. Theme From Krill
I’ve searched high and low and have failed to find a song that better introduces a band than this track. Krill’s self-proclaimed thesis deftly introduces and constructs Krill’s musical and lyrical philosophy. It offsets the band’s intrinsic off-kilter goofiness and wit with Furman’s knack for grappling with questions about depression and anxiety in a relatable manner. “Theme from Krill” introduces the charming and charismatic but pesky bug that imbues every spirited and amusing track with a twinge of despondency.
Lots of songs discuss big dramatic concepts we all face, like life and death and heartbreak, but not so many touch on “tiny funks” – little deceptively powerful spells that hit us just about every day. Musically, “Oppressor” finds its ground just as it seems like everything is going to fall apart. It teeters on the edge of control right up until at that triumphant, definitive end.
3. Infinite Power
The end of this rocks so hard and lends additional power to that unknowable, terrifying capacity we all have to make ourselves feel either good or bad. The track’s commanding repeated refrain – “If you wanna feel like a failure, that’s your right” – navigates a dense cloud of discordant guitar noise. It proves that we can never really make sense of our own stupid “infinite power” – it’s always so obscured by our own laziness and dumb constructions of self-doubt and self-pity.
4. Peanut Butter
This is a brand new single, hot off the press, from a totally stacked four-way split via Double Double Whammy. Its crisp, sliding guitar lines and stop-start tendencies encapsulate and refine everything we already dig about Krill in a nice, concise package. The second verse (essentially about breaking and entering) is really funny and points to the awkwardness of everyday social interactions by elevating them to a level of ridiculousness. This track also has a siq video wherein Krill fools around with PB.
5. Fresh Pond
You don’t have to be from the Boston area to dig Krill, but hey, it definitely helps. Lyrical references to Boston locations and bands and the subway Green Line abound in the songs. But musically, the city’s influence is even more apparent. This track – with a title that refers to an area of Cambridge – is Krill’s longest to date, with a gloriously stretched out, nearly four-minute outro that strongly evokes the sort of grungy, murky take on folk music unique to Boston and perfected by linchpins like Fat History Month, Kal Marks, and Pile.
6. Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts into Tears
Speaking of Pile, here’s the title track from Krill’s concept EP about two fictional characters who aspire and ultimately fail to shred alongside the Boston heavyweights. It’s one of Krill’s more brief and urgent tracks. Furman’s appropriately frantic delivery lends the nutty concept an unexpectedly dramatic heft, imploring us to consider the inherently narcissistic nature of producing art for all the world to see and how our work isn’t always going to resonate with everybody or even make sense to ourselves.
I first heard this Krill deep cut when covered beautifully by Frankie Cosmos. She totally did her thing on it, but Krill’s version rips, too. It’s from the band’s self-produced first album and while I’m glad Krill’s since upped its production value, the recording’s lo-fi nature lends this particularly sentimental and shambling track a nice intimacy. It provides a rare glimpse of some early Krill motifs and some of Furman’s best lyrics. The track has similar themes to those in “Infinite Power” and explores the vast, intimidating, and all-too-frequently inaccessible power we have deep within to grapple with and control pervasive feelings of general uneasiness.