Smile Politely

Review: Coed Pageant’s Winter Blitz

I’m never one to latch onto lyrics upon first listening to a record. Most of the time the album as a whole sonic event makes more of a lasting impression than the words. Yet, Coed Pageant’s new EP, Winter Blitz, immediately arrested me with narrative lyrics that explore the melancholia that so many of us sink into during the winter months. Each song speaks to the infecting sense of fear, doubt or uncertainty that can seem to creep in every time a winter night falls dark. Bradley and Gretchen Bergstrand’s charming harmonies along with swirling piano parts, a humming acoustic guitar, and somber strings accentuate each emotion encapsulated in the words.

“Be Here” is undoubtedly the all-star track on the EP, with vocals that crescendo and subside throughout and lyrics that sum up the feeling of being left in the wake of others’ bigger plans. The two sing: “And life gets harder in every way. All your friends get good jobs and move away. You and I got old on the same day. Both wanted to leave, and then stay,” with a kind of simplicity that so perfectly sums up the plight of someone who is looking for his or her place in the world, and just can’t seem to find it. The refrain is a painful moan of “I don’t wanna be here when you’re not,” that stings when we think about being left behind. 

The stories within “She Fell Asleep” and “Park N Ride” wade through murky, complicated waters, exploring meaningless “I love you’s” when we know a relationship isn’t right, but don’t do anything about it. Bradley’s biting diction on “She Fell Asleep,” pulses over shakers, swaying trumpet and playful percussive pangs, making it one of the more upbeat songs on the EP, though it still possesses powerful meditative interludes filled with Bradley and Gretchen’s swelling, harmonic “ah’s” before returning to the narrative of the song.

This duo, a side project of local band The Palace Flophouse, recorded in Bradley and Gretchen’s living room, which gave them the opportunity to include the serendipitous sounds of their environment like a cat’s meow in the last few seconds of “Where I Fall.” What’s most impressive is the full, satisfying sound that resonates throughout the whole EP. While listening, you can almost imagine their voices filling all the available space in the room. Recording in the home lends DIY chances like this, and also provides an intimacy that helps the meaning of each track sink in that much more. Winter Blitz is like an invitation to a private conversation about the things that scare us, or make as hesitate.

Though “Long Way Home (Second Theme — Instrumental)” sounds more like a bland contemporary church hymn than a soothing break from the other lyric-heavy tracks, the bulk of Winter Blitz is a sweet, gloomy movement through the winter season’s darkest days — or life’s, for that matter.

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