Short Handed is an indie/emo band from the beautiful city of Chicago. I’ve been lucky enough to see them live once, and I wish I could translate that experience to a post online, but I can’t so you should make an effort to see them for yourself. That night, Short Handed and their fellow Chicago band Detour North reminded me why I fell in love with music in the first place. The feeling and emotion and life they put into it, and how truly genuine they are and how their music has the power to make you feel like someone understands when you listen to it…that’s why I love it. Like many of you, I need music to get me through sometimes. And Short Handed gets that. Their EP “Peace of Mind” came out back in June, but to celebrate it’s recent addition to iTunes (wooooo!), I decided to review it. You can read what I have to say about “Peace of Mind” below, and pick it up on iTunes, bandcamp, and Spotify right now!
“Peace of Mind” is special, and I know a lot of people say that about albums they love, but I mean it. The entire album is one cohesive piece that flows really well, but beyond that it’s also very personal. The lyrics and vocals are authentic and relatable, and it seems to tell the story of the people who wrote it. It reads like someone’s innermost thoughts, and it feels like they’ve let you in to their life, to their breakdowns, and to how they feel when they’re alone in their room at night. Every single one of the five tracks are brave, and bold in their honesty. “Peace of Mind” is angry, vulnerable, lonely, and beautiful, and it’s an album that deserves to be heard.
The first track is “Orange Marmalade,” and it’s 90 percent spoken word with gorgeous, dreamy guitar in the background. Alan Villalba, one of Short Handed’s two vocalists, also plays the trumpet and it makes an appearance in most of their songs. It’s solitary, morose drawn out notes really give the tracks a different feel, something unique and recognizable. This song is a great opening song for live shows, and some of the lyrics just hit you right in the gut: “I’m just a poet who took it way too far. To find the best in things became way too fucking hard.” It’s not just the words, but the emotion behind them that really makes “Orange Marmalade.” The song ends with the only lyrics that are actually sung: “I can’t escape the ghosts that haunt my brain.”
“You Can’t See Me (Nothing to See) is up next, and the guitar parts in the beginning really remind me of something Modest Mouse might play. I thought this a lot throughout the record, and I really appreciated it. The vocals on this one almost sound like they’re coming from someone underwater and the relentless drums give it a heavy punch. It’s very catchy and sad at the same time, and the combination of the two vocalists is amazing. The chorus starts with, “I thought I knew you better than I did, but it’s not like you care,” and it’s sung so earnestly and deliciously angsty. It made me want to lay in my room in the dark and sing along. And the end of the song is the most powerful part. I can picture a crowd of people singing along enthusiastically to, “I don’t miss you no more, I miss myself from before.”
“Flowers” comes next and it really slows things down. This one is soft and sad with melancholy guitar until the trumpet comes in. It really reminds me of nineties rock and I liked that. At the end of the song, vocalist Bill Perkins yells the lyrics and you can hear pain and emotion cutting through his voice. I actually felt it, and was reminded again how special this band is.
The album picks up again with “Train Tracks,” with catchy as hell drums in the beginning and cool vocal harmonies. The lyric, “I never wanna be a burden, everyone else is already sad,” is probably one of the most relatable on the album. To me, it just really captures what I’ve seen a lot of my friends, and myself for that matter, go through and feel like. And this song is probably the most honest on the album. Obviously Short Handed sounds nothing like Pierce the Veil, but something I’ve always admired about PTV’s lyrics is their willingness to say things that might creep people out or make them worry, because they’re not afraid to share their saddest, weirdest, most personal thoughts. And this song reminded me of that quality. The lyrics, “I sit in my car alone and I smoke the night away. I think of falling asleep on train tracks and everything would feel okay,” isn’t exactly something you’d share with everybody, but this album is like a diary. And we’ve all felt that way before. The instrumental breakdown towards the end is beautiful and when the scream breaks through it reminds me of shattering glass. I love it.
The album ends with the song “Jungle Book.” The vocals take a background to the heavy, solitary drums and morose guitar. The music is dreamy and sad, and you can drift to it. It’s lonely in a beautiful way. The yelling at the end is my favorite part of the song, when Bill screams, “I can’t escape the ghosts that haunt my brain,” the same lyrics that were sung in the opening track. This song ties it together and brings it back to “Orange Marmalade.” I love clever shit like that.
If you want an album that isn’t safe, and a band that isn’t afraid to be themselves, you have to pick up “Peace of Mind.” I promise, you’ll be happy you did.