The sophomore album from New York indie rock outfit PYNKIE, #37 has the lush and wistful warmth of a summer day turning autumnal at its close. Woozing synth chords, chirpy drums and lackadaisical guitar melodies supporting the raw and introspective vocals, which lend a poignancy and maturity to the often outwardly adolescent lyrics. Although it takes its name from band leader Lindsay Radice’s late stepfather’s football jersey, 37 is a wan and colourful album, less about grief and more about positivity in the face of confusion and misdirection.
Lead singer and songwriter Radice is a practising nurse, so the album’s recording sessions were put on hold at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The recording was finished later in the year when she, bandmates John Messina and Josh Bartsch and producers Chris Uehlein and Dylan Sky Herman could work in their Queens recording studio in relative safety.
Like the PYNKIE debut neoteny, #37 clocks in at a breezy 28 minutes, and most of the songs are equally easy-going and undemanding. The longest track on the album, “Personality” is also probably the weakest, and the album plays to its strengths best when it embraces the cheerful but melancholy aesthetic of its singles “Funny Boy” and “Love Theme”, with softly crooning chords, raw, soulful and smoky vocals and synth melodies that bubble swiftly upward. “Personality” isn’t a bad song by any means, it’s a coy portrait of the baby steps of a new relationship is just told with some of the album’s weakest lyrics.
The sad, gawky personality of PYNKIE’s music is showcased best on tracks such as “Juice”, a cloudy rock jam about romantic complication, with the cute opening lyrics: “juice from the fridge, oh, spilt it again. All-white linen, oh. Ruined again.” The themes of this song set the tone for the second half of the record, depicting an uncommunicative relationship with an emotionally distant partner. The songs to follow catalogue the dissolution of this relationship, covering feelings of denial and bargaining.
“Sugarcoat” is a tragically peppy song in the vein of The Cardigan’s infamous and brilliant “Lovefool”, openly appealing for even a false admission of love: “I don’t want ya to make yourself clear, just sugarcoat it, baby.” Radice’s requests to “make me fall in love again” suggest a relationship at its close that she’s hoping will be kick-started from somewhere else.
“The Habit” has a determinedly chintzy ‘80s synth-rock gloss and swagger, with stomping drums and fuzzy synth lines, as Radice confidently declares the end to a relationship with a very awkward melody that lacks the requisite punch. “Starry Eyed” is another weaker moment on the record, feeling a little too underwritten and repetitive to hit its emotional targets, as well as featuring a particularly cluttered and directionless instrumental.
If “The Habit” is anger, “Starry Eyed” is depression, and “Sugarcoat” is bargaining, then the closing track “Vacation” is acceptance, depicting this new freedom as a holiday from her past self and the demands of the relationship. It also comes with the album’s catchiest chorus, with a perkily swinging melody, backing vocals and prominent kick drums. The closing lyrics “The minute I feel you slippin’ away, I’ll only give you the green light”, almost make it sound as if this album could lead into a replay of Lorde’s Melodrama, which is always a good idea.
#37 doesn’t stick to its subject resolutely though, making room for a more frivolous song like “Sunday Drivin”, supplying the natural highs to some of the album’s lows. #37 itself makes an appealing prospect, with a sweet and positive but still tough and realistic attitude, and soft, peaceable performances that don’t appreciably lack a credible rock edge. PYNKIE’s #37 doesn’t outstay its welcome or pad its tracklist with filler, instead providing a short, sweet and sunny assortment of introspective but undemanding indie rock.