Released on 17th July, Party of One is the debut EP for the indie rock project Grizzly Coast, aka Alannah Kavanagh, an acoustic singer-songwriter turned rock frontwoman, and it’s a great one. At first it may seem like an eerily prescient lockdown EP (it was recorded in 2018), but its treatment of alienation will serve you well in your own future lonelinesses, whatever their causes may be.
Opening the EP is ‘Catch & Release.’ The instrumentation is pure ‘90s alternative, with that characteristic slight distortion atop clever-fingered guitar work. The title is a play on the idea of essentially leading someone on, but in this song it’s not a bad thing—the narrator always has the other person’s best interests at heart—“Said hello then I said, be free.” This love of loneliness, both for oneself and for others, will haunt the rest of the EP.
‘Forever’ begins more slowly and the instrumentation scales back accordingly, the guitars dropping down to harmony at times, but are present largely as strumming for pause and punctuation, before picking up a slightly psychedelic edge as the narrator tries to convince herself she won’t be alone forever. As Kavanagh’s voice gradually picks up urgency, the guitars return, loud and glittery, to the predominant role they had in ‘Catch and Release.’
‘Lonely Planet’ returns to the matter-of-fact emotion of the archetypal hyper-intellectual singer-songwriter. “Lonely planet, oh, lonely Ontario / I’m lonely in social scenarios” are plain words, yes, but in context, this relentless internal rhyme serves to cluster the heightening emotion. This is another track that begins with the guitars patiently waiting their turn, temporarily serving as sporadic ornamentation to put you at pointed unease. And as with ‘Forever,’ as the narrator’s discomfort breaks through, so do the guitars: while the vocals and instrumentation prove themselves interlocked.
‘Storyteller’ wears its heart on its sleeve and with its plainspoken but clever lyrics, (“In my time I have been the bookish one/ Reading into everything and everyone”) feels like mid-oughties emo, but given a good aging of about 15 years, yielding a sentiment that we’re all alone, really, and so we construct narratives to see ourselves and to see each other. The energy of the chorus, with the frank and sincere angst, combines with constant percussion, brief silences, a loud bassline, and guitar that is in turns jangly and fuzzy, to create a track I’d have particularly adored as a teenager.
‘End of the Night’ tells the story of a “punk rock show,” in the words of the narrator, who will “pay every toll to feel unknown.” Just as was emphasized at the very start of the EP in ‘Catch and Release,’ loneliness isn’t a bad thing. In that track, the narrator frees people into their own loneliness, and in this one, people seek their loneliness in a room full of others. This is my favorite song on the EP, with Kavanagh’s vocals at their best, the instrumentation well-rounded, and the track’s quiet patches important both for building musical tension and as lines unto themself—the song earns its controlled chaos.
Kavanagh’s background as an acoustic singer-songwriter is apparent—at first glance, her primary focus seems to be her lyrics and the story they tell. Vocal performance seems a close second. And her voice is endlessly versatile, ranging from dark, layered velvet to clean and clear and smooth to a desperate reediness up in her higher range. As in the acoustic singer-songwriter genre, guitar here serves many purposes—dueling melody, supporting harmony, background noise, ornamentation, disarmament. While the instrumentals may not seem particularly tied to the lyrics or to the vocals, they each fit themselves to the other, and, at this point, I for one couldn’t imagine them separated.
Grizzly Coast’s new EP, Party of One is out now – available to Stream/Purchase here.