Small Pills to Swallow
The past year has done a real number on our perception of time. As one homebound day bled into the next, the psychological blinders that always kept us looking straight ahead were removed, freeing us to turn our focus inward, or sideways, or behind. Portland rockers Will Bradford (SeepeopleS) and Brooke Binion (TheWorst) had over a decade of musical output to reflect upon, including an hour-long, psychedelic EDM album they laid down in 2009 in their Asheville, N.C., home studio. They ended up shelving Small Pills to Swallow for personal reasons, but in 2020 they were inspired to do a bit of time travel and import those old files. On New Year’s Day, Freepeoples FreQuency finally dropped its debut.
It’s a testament to the enduring appeal of the couple’s creative vision. The droning synths of the opening “Twice as Strong” possess the kind of melodramatic, mid-aughts bwahhhh that sparks memories of Skrillex’s haircut, but Bradford and Binion are more interested in building entrancing, shifting soundscapes than ramping up to a bass drop. The ensuing “Shortcake” loops one hammer-on-heavy bass riff until it’s embedded in our psyches; when Binion surfaces to sing a chorus about running away, it feels like we already are. “Never Fall Apart” is where those small pills really kick in. As the pair sings a dreamy pop melody in unison, a feedback-flecked house beat reminds us we haven’t left the club. “You never did know why / Time was always trying to fight you,” they share, making peace with the past as a wave of synths help us float into tomorrow.