Tiny Vipers – Life on Earth

3 out of 5

Label: Sub Pop

Produced by: Jesy Fortino, Andrew Hernandez

I tried, I really did.  I very much enjoyed the first Tiny Vipers album, and while this followup is of a like mind, it starts to err toward Jesy Fortino’s (aka Tiny Vipers) following ambient / drone works, but still latched the the minimalist folk of her debut.  Reviewers abound with glowing receptions of this blend, and its explorations of darkness and isolation in an echo chamber of guitar pluckings; I have trouble connecting with it.

The album ebbs and flows with its occasional (but impactful flourishes): layered vocals; whistling; feedback; otherwise, though, we’re guitar and voice.  Many an album has been made of that successful pairing, but Fortino, so intensely indebted to exploring her own inner landscapes, has pared much of this album down to a bare, bare minimum.  The playing and singing feel distant, and unfortunately, that makes me disconnect from the reflective lyrics.  The first three tracks trek through this process, without much discernible variation (especially when the note progressions are played at a snail’s pace).  At first, it’s shockingly silent, which I’d think is a desired effect.  Fortino has such command over her vocal range, shifting it into odd pitches, and her words are fascinatingly oblique; you’re listening.  But, whoosh, fifteen minutes of this without change is tough.  Track 4’s Dreamer brings some strummy life to the party, and a couple tracks later, Young God descends into some murky depths, Fortino murmuring her thoughts around the bend in the cave in which you’re both lost.  The title tracks goes back to (mostly) minimalist stuff for a long ten minutes, making it too easy to fall out of listening to the (to my ears) best part of the album: its final four tracks.  The penultimate Twilight Property is, especially, perfect, bringing to mind her approach on album one of enhancing the drone with comparatively loud enhancements of effects or other instrumentation.

Definitely a work of art, as there’s no denying the dedication and passion here, but certainly an acquired taste, even coming off of her previous release.