By E.R. Pulgar, Former Highlighter Editor
Pity Sex’s particular brand of indie rock is steeped in the proud tradition of everything you would expect from an indie rock band: fuzzed-out guitar, heartbreaking lyrics, chugging drums, and big moments of introspection. The rising Ann Arbor quartet sticks to their guns on “White Hot Moon,” but that’s not to say the release is just a rehash of the grungy sound that propelled them into the public eye.
Compared to their first full-length EP, 2013’s excellent “Feast of Love,” the sounds on this record are larger, the important musical moments more embroiling, and the band’s strengths far more prominent. Gone are the days of Pity Sex as your standard garage-rock fare: opening track “A Satisfactory World for Reasonable People,” with its dominating guitar riffs and Brennan Greaves’ signature lo-fi, vocals alongside Britty Drake’s lithe voice, ushers Pity Sex into a cleaner version of itself, with music so energetic and powerful it could fill an arena.
Drake’s soul-baring and poetic lyrics already tend to contrast with drummer Sean St. Charles’ more direct songwriting, but “White Hot Moon” sees her at her most heartbreaking. On Drake-helmed standout “Plum,” she sings about her mother’s death with cutting honesty, her voice floating over roaring drums and unabashedly raging guitar. The energy present here, while bringing the melancholy Pity Sex have pastiched so well from other indie bands, also grounds the rest of the record, similar to”Hollow Body” from their first EP, another Drake-penned acoustic track.
The power of the big moments and of tracks like “Plum” are not enough to propel the record into new territory. Most of the music on here is derivative of their other records without really evolving the sound—the title track, to name one, feels a lot like a refined version of “St. John’s Wort” from their previous record. The band can’t be blamed for following their formula: when you create heartfelt lo-fi rock music as well as they do, why be compelled to change it? If anything, you fine-tune, and for long time fans this is all but good news.
“White Hot Moon” has Pity Sex at their most confident: not enough to change their style drastically, but enough to create sound that would not feel out of place at a stadium show. This incremental growth could be seen as a negative, but it’s the reason the band maintains the warmth and the emotion that’s earned them such a following. The common saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind when listening to this record, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room to grow in the future.
With their sound growing larger, harmonies getting tighter, and lyrics remaining heartbreaking as ever, Pity Sex is poised to experiment with their sound outside of their usual style for their next record, and that prospect should excite everyone longing for this excellent quartet to try something new.
Email E.R. Pulgar at firstname.lastname@example.org