I’ve noticed a trend in punk-rock over the last bunch of years and there’s no way it’s just me. Punk is taking less pride in being calloused than it used to be. Maybe it’s just the circles I’m affiliated with, maybe it’s not. But it sure feels like much of the “fuck yous” have been traded in for “love yous” while maintaining the raw, age-old sound and DIY ethos. It’s this new positive and inclusive attitude that has the genre feeling fresh and exciting again. Chicago’s Turnspit fit that mold immaculately. Rough around the edges, but at the core, they’re sweet and just trying to do something constructive.
Last year, our fearless Bad Copy leader Kendra Sheetz, put Turnspit’s new record Desire Paths at the number ten spot on her best of the year list. The album wasn’t even close to being out in 2017, but she heard it early and thought it was so good that it warranted making it onto a list for a year it didn’t belong to. And you know what? She was totally right. I just wonder if it’ll make this year’s list too and be the first ever album to be the best of two years. Desire Paths is already breaking new ground, guys.
Released by Dodgeball Records on February 16th, Desire Paths could almost be called a loose concept record for how focused the lyrical themes are. The bulk of the album sees the band on a journey of self discovery, self acceptance, and taking charge of their own futures and happiness. And it encourages the listeners to do the same. About the song “Breath Taking,” vocalist/guitarist Jason Swearingen told the folks at Riot Fest that “it’s easier to control people who are kept miserable; and how revolutionary an act it can be to simply do what makes you happy — in a positive way — in the face of others telling you that happiness is shameful.”
“Midsentence” attacks the root of our shame by pointing out how so many of us were force fed impossible standards and set up for failure and future disappointments by being taught “how to be from toys and TV.” That’s where it begins, but other vocalist/guitarist Gillian McGhee goes a step further by touching on manipulation and control from a female perspective on tracks like “Taproom,” which features a spoken word section that tears my heart out, and “Skin,” which chronicles experiences of being over-sexualized, objectified, and the powerlessness that comes with it. All of these songs begin by feeling hopeless, but end with a triumphant reclamation of power.
Easily my favorite moments on Desire Paths come from “Apologies, I Have So, So Many,” a fast-paced anthem where the two vocalists tag team the verses and hooks. The effort seems intentional like they’re encouraging each other. Really, this whole song plays out like a conversation I could hear my friends having. Each side confesses their shames, their guilt, and pleads forgiveness while the other reciprocates with empathy. The whole thing is crazy cathartic and though I don’t know them personally, I’m happy for the members of Turnspit for being honest and letting go of their demons. McGhee’s vocal tenacity is put to the test when she shouts “I won’t say I’m sorry, I don’t have to anymore” in time with drummer, Dan Tinkler’s booming beats.
Overall, Desire Paths is a fantastic record with a strong range of sounds. There are times when you’ll be banging your head and finger-pointing like punchy opener “Irish Name” and closer “If It Meant Heaven Was Free.” And then there are others where you might weep like the sometimes twangy, always subdued interludes “Given,” “Invisible,” and the first minute of “Skin.” But what holds it together is the beauty between it all, the beauty of self-love and the encouragement of the ones who matter most. After going into this 100% blind, I can honestly say this is the best collection of music I’ve been introduced to so far this year and I promise to keep it close.