Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

Sidney Gish – Sin Triangle

Boston singer-songwriter goes off on tangents, we cosign…


Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Sidney Gish’s music sounds like the internet, which is convenient because it’s largely about the internet. In the case of “Sin Triangle,” that connection is not so direct — unlike other songs from the Boston-area singer-songwriter’s discography, there are no references to weird Facebook groups, no lyrics sheets with YouTube links to videos of rabbits at the end. Instead, the outlook of “Sin Triangle” is terminally online in more subtle ways. It’s in the ways the lines cascade, references and jokes building like Wikipedia walks or endless reply threads– the way the sin/sine/biblical/bitches slots in the chorus iterate without end, like watching some meme mutate in real time, yes. But it’s also in Gish’s precise portrait of a very Gen Z-millennial cusp-ish anxiety, of knowing that you’re just performing cool and chill until you break again and knowing still that you’re going to keep performing that. “Sin Triangle” is jokey and fun until it’s not, a lyrical portrait of a modern coping mechanism. Gish’s arrangement carries you there, too– the way the layers of guitars build to that gorgeous fuzz-pop burst of a solo, accompanied by a dropped in sample from a 1950s educational film on “improving your personality,” is a near-perfect match of lyrical form and musical function. It’s a lo-fi banger, but one with every part in the right place.

Alfred Soto: What a fabulous title! Those interwoven intro guitars? Delicious. Sidney Gish, whose tones suggest Suzanne Vega, gives a performance of great po-faced charm, almost wiping the memory of the PSA sample.

Katie Gill: “Sin Triangle” straddles this awkward line between overly twee and cringy (the PSA announcer in the background and that Japan lyric in particular had me rolling my eyes) and a solid alternative college radio sound. But the song is catchy as hell, that guitar break is pretty amazing, and aside from that absolute fizzle of an ending, it keeps your attention the whole way through.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Muted twee pop like this always feels imbued with a subtle warmth. You can sense it in Sidney Gish’s remarks, ones that are both humorous (“Friendly girls are trying to comfort me as if I’m a depressed chick at a frat party”) and conversational in tone (“With luck, it would at least, like, not suck”). There’s a lot of appeal in how understated and quotidian this feels, and the modest yet lively guitarwork anchors it ever so elegantly.

Vikram Joseph: “Sin Triangle” brings to mind a lot of things — Will Toledo’s conversational, jokey self-deprecation, the jaunty complexity of Julia Holter’s Have You In My Wilderness, Julia Jacklin’s sunny but deceptively sad alt-folk. But Sidney Gish’s personality shines through, with (knowingly arch) highbrow jokes about Japanese history and lowbrow jokes about taking drugs. The jazzy, Spanish-inflected guitars augment her pop instincts well, and she sounds like she’s singing with a permanent wry smile on her face. It could have all been a little slight and quirky, in a Noah Baumbach sort of way, but the chorus (“Two-faced bitches never lie! And therefore, I never lie!”) is about as catchy as anything I’ve heard this year.

Katherine St Asaph: Near-perfect indie-pop hooks, the vocal mannerisms of Christine Fellows or a less genteel Kacey Musgraves, the “sample/recontextualize a ’50s PSA” trick I almost always love, and songwriting that startled me: Usually, when I’m a fan of singer-songwriters, it’s because their writing voice is inimitably, quotably, profoundly them, even when it personally resonates. It’s considerably more rare that I encounter one whose songwriting is exactly what my interior monologue sounds like, down to the weird analogies, lately those specifically being math analogies, the real-time self-correcting of those analogies (“but the biblical kind, and not sine”), and the never quite getting those analogies across to anyone else, considering I have no idea what the “sin triangle” here actually is. I’m not saying the lyrics are impossibly, unfindably unique (or that, by extension, I am) — the self-deprecating humor is very much of the commonplace cockatoo-playing-with-plastic-cup variety — and it also doesn’t always fit into a song structure, or scan. (Other parts of No Dogs Allowed are better at this.) But it startled me beyond simple “this is relatable,” though it’s also that. Given the seemingly infinite indie-pop field, that does a lot.

Hannah Jocelyn: This is not the best song on No Dogs Allowed, even if it’s undeniably catchy enough to be A Single. Compared to some of the other lyrics on the album, the logic puzzle of the chorus is slightly too fussy to resonate as much as the more direct hooks elsewhere. But it’s the best-known track from her for a reason. The opening stanzas are sharp as anything else on the album; we don’t know what exactly caused the breakdown in this song, but the lyrical details are also too specific to speculate. There are a healthy amount of mixing details that hold interest too, like the way the guitar ramps up in the final chorus and the slapback echo gradually increases. Meanwhile, the G#m7/9 chord in the chorus remains an unexpected gut-punch even after all this time. Something I didn’t notice the first handful of times I listened is exactly how the vocal samples (“what is your personality?”) fit into the themes of the whole record — not just being an isolationist, but attempting to stabilize and find a concrete sense of self when your circumstances are always on the precipice of change. On the record, Gish takes the shape of a not-a-dog-not-a-person, a subway rat, and a rabbit-killing magician, constantly standing in opposition to whatever the “right” thing should be. Or in her words: “I don’t know who I am/I don’t know what to do/but I’m not a lot like you.” Even here, she is not a “depressed chick at a frat party.” The search for identity is not the definitive aspect of Gish’s songwriting — it’s the smart humor, the preternaturally catchy melodies, and the production warm enough that “eccentric” feels condescending. Yet it’s always there; everything else just ensures that you want to figure it out with her. 

Reader average: [5.8] (5 votes)

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3 Responses to “Sidney Gish – Sin Triangle”

  1. Everyone’s writing is great here.

    I didn’t mention this in my blurb, but I interviewed her on Medium earlier this year and it’s still one of my favorite things I wrote in 2018:

  2. holy shit wait she knows about the april winchell mp3 colleciton

  3. oh man, i had forgotten about that collection katherine; thanks for reminding me. it was a favorite in the VERY early MP3 blog days.

    everybody go here now: