In the last year there has been a momentous transformation in the public understanding of sexual assault and trauma. Thanks in large part to the increasing number of courageous individuals coming forward, we see now, clearer than ever, the deep structural prejudices and long practiced abuse of power that have helped enable a maddeningly prevalent culture of assault and harassment. Harley Alexander’s latest release is a meditation on these themes.
As timely as it is profound, Spill Kid is not a graphic history, but rather a move towards healing and catharsis. Written primarily as a diary to deal with Harley’s own experience of trauma, the album is at once sparse and laid-back, recorded primarily with a classical guitar and the talkback mic on a pair of headphones. The instrumentation is entirely Alexander’s, with the occasional addition of subtle piano, synth sounds and a drum track. It is an unadorned celebration of vulnerability and self-exploration.
‘Sometimes It’s Good’ talks about the emotional toll of trauma and the difficulty of feeling oneself, even in the company of loved ones. Honey-sweet vocals sweep over acoustic strumming and the low crackles of ambient background noises. The song, like much of the album, is an honest comment on the ebb and flow of the healing process. It proceeds in a meditative and, at times, playful voice that neither dramatizes nor downplays the seriousness of what it explores. With deep humility, it celebrates the survivor’s experience in the strength and beauty of everyday detail.
‘Tiny Bricks’ is an elegantly lo-fi masterpiece of bedroom-pop that bears a strong and welcome resemblance to the soft nuances of Devendra Banhart. Meanwhile, songs like ‘Slay (the patriarchy)’ give the album a more upbeat dimension, while challenging the difficulties and claustrophobia of machismo.
The final cut, ‘The Concrete and the Tomato Vine,’ employs a simple and palpable image of a tomato growing amid concrete, to emphasize the continued insistence of our ability to find resilience in adverse places. The message and intent of Spill Kid is uncompromisingly earnest. It is wistful and serene; it is a record born of the exhale of breath that comes after the rawness of emotion.
In Harley’s own words: “If you’ve lived through freaky horror shit, I just wanna say it wasn’t your fault. I believe you, and I believe in your ability to heal and live with pride and swagger and all your glorious imperfect uniqueness.”