Moments into the first track and Mothers appear to be fulfilling the mood of their whimsically titled debut album, When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired. With its simple ukulele line, hovered over by front-woman Kristine Leschper’s melancholic vocals, ‘Too Small for Eyes’ feels distinctly like a lullaby; other soft instrumentation creeps in but never lingers for long, bright moments that capture the listener before releasing them back into the calm. Mothers emerged out of a solo project of Leschper’s, which garnered so much positive attention in her native Georgia, United States’ music scene in 2013 that she decided to recruit a full band, with which she announced the album in November 2015. Though quietly beautiful, the first track on the album might be enough cause some disinterest; acoustic with a distinctively fragile female voice, there doesn’t seem to be a lot we haven’t seen before. However, with a little bit of attention, When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired has more to offer than perhaps first anticipated.
The first real kick comes from the second track ‘It Hurts Until It Doesn’t’, steering away from an acoustic sound towards a distinctly slacker guitar rift that lurches with relaxed energy. Sudden tempo changes signal a shift away from the established sound, Leschper’s delicate voice straining over the crescendos that come and go throughout the song, led by the pervasive drum line. Third track ‘Copper Mines’ follows in a similar style, the vocals sweet but with a scratchy quality in a jarring melody compared to the frenetic baseline that leads swelling instrumentation sporadically throughout the song. Mother’s lean toward moments of contrasting climax and lull in more energetic songs such as this one, creating an erratic, emotive tone.
Mothers have a knack for placing highly sentimental lines alongside bizarre symbols and imagery
Fourth track ‘Nesting Behaviour’ drifts over six minutes, marking a return to the gentle tones of the first track. With softly plucked guitar echoing quiet reverb and a gathering of tentative strings, Mothers adopt a style comparable to that of artists such as Keaton Henson, including a lyrical vulnerability that dominates the album. Though ‘Lockjaw’ returns with more punch than it’s predecessor, lyrically it retains it’s melancholy feel with deterministic, reflective phrases. “This is how it often goes,” sings Leschper over and over again, reaching up into an almost wailing falsetto over suddenly crashing drum rhythms and spiking chord sequences. “You love me mostly when I’m leaving” she sings repeatedly again as the song fades towards its end, dragging the listener through lyrics that can’t help but stir some kind of emotional response, before slamming back into another aggressive chord sequence.
Mothers appear to have a knack for placing highly sentimental lines alongside bizarre symbols and imagery that has had somewhat of a resurgence in the recent past with artists such as Arctic Monkeys, as well as the latest offering from Foals. With lines like “Most of me sunk into the carpet / What was left of you asked me to leave… I was a napkin in the rain” it is clear that Mothers are keen to establish themselves as separate from the deeply emotional works by female-led artists they could otherwise be compared to, such as Daughter. While these lyrical experiments are arguably not always attractive, veering away from anything recognisable into something alienating, they are certainly intriguing and seem to appear from nowhere with every fresh listen to the album.
By the fifth track on the album, ‘Blood Letting’, the two opposing formats that have characterised the previous songs begin to wear slightly thin, though the song does have a gentle rhythmic quality perhaps missing from the first half of the album. Still, it is easy to find this album particularly disorientating – at this later point, the songs seem to drag into one another with little differentiation. Though full of songs technically good in their own right, the album lacks a sense of cohesion that can make for quite an exhausting listening experience.
That being said, the album is wrapped up nicely in its instrumental closing moments of ‘Hold Your Own Hand’. Here we glimpse an atmospheric, distinctly bright outro that combines the gentle nature of the acoustic tracks, as well as some of the more aggressive tracks. This sweeping final motif comes at just the right moment, tying up a collection of songs that seemed in danger of falling apart, giving a quiet but effective reminder of the impressive sensitivity Mothers seem to possess as a band.