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Sneaks (Washington DC): Gymnastics [Digipak]

Track List

>Tough Luck
>New Taste
>No Problem
>Down in the Woods
>True Killer
>This Is
>Figure 8
>Someone Like That

Album Notes

Gymnastics is the brief but strangely entrancing debut by Washington, D.C.'s Eva Moolchan, who records under the name Sneaks. This curious little wonder of lo-fi, post-punk minimalism first appeared in 2015, burrowing its way into the hearts of indie fans lucky enough to cross its path. Parisian label Danger Records gave Sneaks her first bit of European exposure before Merge took a chance in the U.S., offering up this late-2016 reissue, purportedly in advance of her nearly completed follow-up. A pleasingly blunt array of spoken word and chanted lyrics over bass guitar and drum machine, Gymnastics' unique charm lies in its delivery. Musically, shades of bare-bones forebears like Pylon or Young Marble Giants come to mind, but Moolchan's youthful vocals have their own compelling magnetism, even at their most repetitive. Her self-described attempts to deconstruct "the words of mundane slogans, ads, and repetitive symbols" are highly effective, especially on a track like "New Taste," during which she softly intones a string of nouns and phrases like "fried egg," "quinoa," "loose change," and "Virgo." Rather than attack the words with a motorik punk vigor, Moolchan uses a pleasantly mundane tone that almost seems conversational, if one-sided. On "No Problem," she simply repeats the song's title over a stuttering, fast-picked bassline, each time emphasizing different syllables as if she were practicing the phrase in front of a mirror. The result is almost voyeuristic yet disarmingly playful, and this is what keeps a record like this from being a chore. Another highlight, "Red," is delivered in a funny, lilting chant, which she wryly caps off with "It's okay to feel ashamed by the things you've done, you're kind of lame" before adding a few bars of wacky humming, almost as an afterthought. It's difficult to describe what makes Sneaks so appealing or how she lures listeners in with seemingly so little, but at only about 15 minutes, Gymnastics is time well spent. ~ Timothy Monger


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