Warm earth noise pop from Philadelphia. Catherine Elicson, Garrett Koloski, Emily Shanahan, Randall Coon.
The Philadelphia noise rock group Empath are the sole act on Bandcamp who have tagged themselves as “gay ass rock.” That might come off as a glib self-descriptor, but it also does shed some light on the music. There’s a certain chaos animating plenty of contemporary queer music, from Car Seat Headrest’s fevered word salad to Xiu Xiu’s avant-pop eruptions. The sense that a song is about to overflow with its own feeling lines up with the sensation that queer people are breaking the status quo’s rules just by existing, by living and desiring and behaving outside strict heteronormative forms. Empath, for their part, make the kind of music that goes down like a dagger encrusted with rock candy.
The handful of tracks Empath have released so far have wrapped confectionary pop melodies in scratchy, corrosive production—and the band’s latest song “The Eye” is no exception. Taken from their new cassette release, Liberating Guilt and Fear, the track boasts the most compelling hook Empath have written to date, delivered via buried vocals over furious, pummeling drums. In the chorus, a single line stands out from the grit: “You don’t have to spend all of that money on me, baby.” It’s a strange fragment, singular enough to be memorable after the song’s over, but enigmatic enough to warrant a replay or two to dig up its context. The deadpan verses, crunchy guitars, and frantic synth lines drape like tinsel over the rest of the song, making “The Eye” an addictive listen, the kind that digs its teeth into you and doesn’t let go. —Pitchfork