Arts Desk

Trophy Wife’s Sing What Scares You, Reviewed

Diane [Foglizzo] and I write songs as a way to work through [our] intense friendship and creative partnership,” said Katy Otto in a recent interview. Anyone who's seen a show by Trophy Wife—her band with Foglizzo—can confirm that their music embodies that idea perfectly.

Foglizzo and Otto play shows facing each other, not to exclude the audience (they usually play on the floor of the stage, too) but more as a technical necessity: Their pummeling, cathartic, holler-along songs are full of time changes, rhythmically staggered harmonies, and other moving parts set off by subtle cues. When they're locked in a groove, the communication is seamless: The energy that pulses in the four or so feet between them feels so tangible and electric, it's almost like a third instrument.

Many of the songs on Sing What Scares You, their most powerful record yet, are about the spaces between people—relationships in the most universal sense. The cavernous rumble of Foglizzo's guitar sets the tone for "Boundaries" and “Turncoat” (“I thrive when you thrive/I grow when you grow”) while Otto's rapid-fire snare hits drive the epic, multipart "The Gunpowder is at Yer House" ("You don't want my limbs/I don't know how else to give"). Like the best Trophy Wife songs—and the most passionately tumultuous relationships—"Gunpowder" is all about the push and pull of extremes; dark thunderclouds of noise that suddenly break and reveal unanticipated glimmers of light.

Still, Sing What Scares You isn't big on artificial sunlight. "It Gets Better…?" is exactly what the title implies: a skeptical take on the much-publicized "It Gets Better" anti-bullying campaign, which Foglizzo and Otto have publicly critiqued for peddling queer youth a misleading sense of optimism. “It is what it is/What it is/what it is,” Foglizzo screams on the track, chucking off the rose-colored glasses. Her vocals are lucid but heavy, tuneful yet intense: Imagine Kim Deal at the summit of deserted mountain, shouting every Pod lyric at the sky. The songs’ emotional intensity and thought-provoking bite are sharpened by the fact (rare, even in more political-leaning punk) that you can understand almost every word she’s singing. “It is what it is” turns out to be a fitting credo. You don’t need to Google Trophy Wife interviews or scour the liner notes to get a sense of their stance on “It Gets Better...?”— just listen to the song.

Embracing darkness rather than sugar-coating or ignoring it, Trophy Wife's music aims to present life and relationships with a refreshing and uncompromising sense of realism. Sing What Scares You charts a detailed, craggy emotional terrain of endless peaks and valleys. And yet, ironically, the record is a testament to one thing that does get consistently better: Trophy Wife.

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