“One tricky thing about turning big traumas directly into songs is that it compartmentalizes the memory and takes you away from the horror of it, and into a round of mix notes, but that’s Hollywood, baby,” expains Eva Lawitts, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist of project Stimmerman, as she describes the band’s latest album Undertaking. At times reminiscent of Elliott Smith, other times seeming to nod toward Chicago—often times both within the same phrase—we here at Full Time Aesthetic have been keeping close tabs on this release since they unraveled upon us their nervous breakdown single “House Party” back in February (see our thoughts here).
Much of the record exists in the moments of early 2020, following the death of Lawitts’s close friend and the onset of a global pandemic that shutdown their world on a number of levels for a multitude of reasons. The unassuming album opener “Growing Under” employs delicate fragility, exposing acoustic tones and a vulnerable vocal, common on this record, but largely absent on prior releases, that closely follows the melodic rhythmic pathways ushered in by the herald of trumpeting horns. It’s a thread that returns and twists it’s head in warped and warbled ways through “Fast & Never,” which Lawitts explains is specifically about the hours she spent standing around on her phone, informing all of her mutual friends one after the other that their friend had just died.
“These topics seem heavy I guess, but they also feel like they’re impossibly far in the past,” Lawitts explains. “In 2020 and 2021 there was a lot of ambiguity, confusion, fear, blame, previously unfathomable loss etc. We can’t always say what it was all about.” Songs like “Hungry God,” are definitely a bit more ambiguous and far more frantic in nature, with angular guitars and uneasy panic in the saxophones.
Shapes and shadows are a common theme in the lyrics as noted by Dylan LaPointe (of Debbie Dopamine), who recently described the music as “dynamic, tender, punishing, chaotic, gorgeous, and full of motifs that tie each album together. Eva’s music hits that part of you that wants to scream, cry, laugh maniacally, and maybe eat some cured meats at 2 in the morning.” On tracks like “Promise U Will,” Stimmerman takes us indeed from menacing triumph to doom and back to the allure of familiar sorrow and the constant pivoting of restless emotion. It’s only at the end of this fitful sea of soul and spirit that Stimmerman cauterizes the distorted existential journey with strangely odd pop dissonant “Ruptured Lung” closer which feels like slightly sickened deep cut from a lost Muffs session.
Stimmerman (photo by Kate Hoos)
Undertaking is a complete and total freefall from the weight of feeling; its ugly beauty lies in continually knocking you off balance every time you achieve even a modicum of emotional closure. The permanent pinballl ride is one we all take together, but the random course that chooses us is ultimately traveled alone.
Undertaking is out now and available via Bandcamp and all major streamers.