Southerly – Expressionless EP

Expressionless EP

Southerly is Krist Krueger, a young man armed with guitar and an array of sonic weapons. His EP, Expressionless, offers the listener six songs consisting of unconventional structures that can at times be quite challenging but nevertheless rewarding. Mixed with somewhat brooding lyrics, Southerly manages to create an aural landscape that makes disengaged listening almost impossible.
“The Gossip and The Gossiper” opens with a heartily strummed guitar and has perhaps the most “normal” folk (as in Bright Eyes) song structure. It doesn’t stray far from its original course, mixing the title in with the self-ordered “sit and reflect.” If the next song, “Relations,” was to go head-to-head with some of this genre’s whinier and more bare-bones outfits, it would no doubt come out on top. There’s tongue-tripping lyrics mixed with a stop-start rhythm being pounded out and an electric guitar boosting the chorus up a notch. Southerly’s penchant for pushing the boundaries of singer/songwriter conventions becomes even more evident on the rest of the album. “Miss Demeanor” starts off with another challenging vocal line, building into a bitterly sung chorus: “You say you walk just like your dad / Well, I’ll say you do / Cause you walked out on me / Just like he did on you.” There’s something completely disconcerting with the way the last chorus is sung unaccompanied. It’s unexpected, doesn’t seem to fit, and manages to make a chill run down your spine.
Which brings us to “Like Minded” – beat boxing. Yes, beat boxing. What’s going on here? Is it a sly reference to the not-so-fresh phenomenon of the indie-boy rapper (Cex, et al)? Or is it simply an “aesthetic” choice? Okay, the beat boxing thing is eventually covered up by instrumentation, although not enough to erase its memory. It’s fun, funny, and, though I’m not sure if it was intended to do so, alleviates some of the melancholy found on the previous songs. But “Dear Heart” is my pick for song of the album. It has a beautiful melody, minimalist drumming, and guitar that goes electric on the chorus (see a pattern?). Best line? “Do you sing so loud / to drown out the argument all about?” Closing the EP is “Music is the Sound Your Soul Makes.” Mixing found sound collage with phoned in vocals floating around like the ghost of a dead relationship, the overlapping observations build up to one sentiment: “Music is the sound your soul makes.” It’s a fitting ending to a collection of songs written by somebody who seems to eschew following the crowd and opts instead to do his own thing.