By Devon Chodzin ’19
Say what you will about Millennials, but we’re especially willing to put ourselves out there. Thanks to media sharing sites like MySpace, SoundCloud, and Bandcamp, more self-produced young artists can upload original content to a community clamoring to find the next great thing in music. Sure, most of the musicians you’ll find on Bandcamp are just hobbyists with an extensive arsenal of production gear who might let it all fall to the wayside upon finishing undergraduate school (or, more realistically, upon the complete emptying of one’s bank account), but it can be pretty interesting to go through the latest releases on any of these sites and hear what you won’t hear anywhere else.
That’s how my friend Amy, a student at Saint Michael’s College and New Music/Features Writer for Unrecorded, came across the solo project if i die in mississippi. if i die in mississippi is the solo project of Jonathan Hope, a college student in Mississippi. On February 4th, Hope released sweetheart, the second tape released under if i die in mississippi. More recently, on March 16th, Hope launched Girlfriend Tapes, the label on which he re-released sweetheart. Hope and his girlfriend launched the label on Bandcamp, saying that “Our idea is to make fun/cute issues of tapes of our friends’ music. Each package will come with a special knick-knack, as well as other cute things.”
The tape itself, sweetheart, has 8 tracks on it (who would have thought that a TAPE would have 8 TRACKS on it), which are pretty stylistically consistent. That being said, there is still a fair amount of diversity within the tape. sweetheart is devoted to Hope’s girlfriend, and each track definitely shows that. Throughout the tape, Hope employs very intimate guitars which remind us that this record is very grassroots. His vocals, especially in “the last time i saw you” and “the castle takes time,” are reminiscent of Radical Face, one of singer-songwriter Ben Cooper’s several projects. Radical Face’s records, however, sound very cinematic in effect, even when he makes the vocals sound somewhat lo-fi. Here, Hope takes advantage of the acoustic sad indie trash aesthetic to create a sound which is less reminiscent of cinema and more reminiscent of home movies. It’s much more intimate, it’s much more personal, and it’s highly intentional. It’s evident that Hope intentionally sought to create a lo-fi sound.
Personally, my favorite tracks include “fortune cookie” and “would your front porch collapse,” which are two of the most different tracks on the tape. “fortune cookie” is often loud, sometimes a little bit concerningly loud, and heavy on the reverb. It features My Bloody Valentine’s hit “When You Sleep.” “fortune cookie” is, in its sound, a functional climax. “would your front porch collapse” is especially cute. It’s very fast paced, but the sound is much softer. The lyrics are very obviously romantic, beginning with, “i wanna drink coffee with you in the morning / take you out for lunch when things get boring.” In my opinion, these are the high points in this tape.
sweetheart’s finale, “detox,” is all instrumental. The most prominent sounds are white noise (I detect hints of transit, like helicopters) and a piano, which plays a very simple rhythm but with effective harmonies. It’s exactly how a tape like this should end. The white noise and soft piano ground are even more intimate than the rest of the record. The components of the song drop out until all that remains is the piano, which even then deteriorates into a more ethereal existence as the theme disintegrates.
To me, “contraband” kind of fell flat, as well as the preceding track, “over-attached submissive sweetheart seeks despondent pin-up sadist/on a hill in a cemetery in memphis with you after five years apart.” While they retain the lo-fi aesthetic that defines sweetheart, they don’t catch my attention or give me the same effect that other tracks within the same family give me. Of course, the album is not dedicated to me, and I’ve never met the artist nor his girlfriend, so I don’t know the significance of these tracks or their lyrics. I can only assume they’re priceless. They absolutely should be on this tape.
In the end, will sweetheart garner the attention I think it deserves? Probably not quite. In a world where artists can share everything on Bandcamp and other websites, the market is saturated with new releases day in and day out, in every genre and family of music. As a result, it can be tough to stand out. That being said, I’m still very glad Amy sent this to me. We both have a soft spot in our heart for the lo-fi sad indie trash which was popularized by artists like elvis depressedly and teen suicide. if i die in mississippi could easily be the next elvis depressedly, and even now I might be willing to claim that if i die in mississippi could prove to be the elvis depressedly of love songs. Hopefully, in the future, Girlfriend Tapes will offer us more interesting creations — the model they have of sending knick-knacks with their tapes is already a novel idea. No matter what, sweetheart has proven to be a worthy tape from a worthy artist, and I hope to hear much more from if i die in mississippi in the future.
In the meantime, I’ll be checking Bandcamp from time to time to see what else pops up on my sad, indie radar.