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Monday, Mar 4, 2024

Spin Doctor: Basking in the “Doomin’ Sun”

Welcome to the first installment of Spin Doctor, a biweekly dose of music reviews and recommendations by Yardena Carmi ’23.

Our current culture seems to be defined by an ever-increasing ability to hyperfixate and obsess. If there is an actor or athlete you like, their life story is immediately accessible through Wikipedia and social media. Your crush from class is probably also on Instagram, where you can analyze their public life — where they go, who they see, their favorite snacks — at your leisure.

What does it mean when we start using the same platforms and tools to study our idols as we do to interact with our friends? In 1956, psychologists Donald Horton and Richard Wohl coined the term “parasocial relationship” to describe one-sided friendships forming between everyday people and the daytime TV hosts they had begun to identify with from afar.

Six decades later, we have fandoms and cultures that exist entirely online, through which one’s desire and capacity to invest themselves in a stranger becomes something close to a way of life.

In “Back of My Hand,” the first track on the album “Doomin’ Sun” from new indie group “Bachelor,” a celebrity crush becomes real life as the narrator hangs uneasily in a space somewhere between girlfriend and fan, love and codependency, unsure if she wants to actually date her hero or just wishes she could be her. The speaker begins to negate herself — holding back emotions, questioning her own thoughts, skipping meals and compromising herself in an attempt to better suit her new partner. 

Obsessive love is a core theme for Bachelor, a collaboration between two already well-established indie rockers, Palehound and Jay Som. According to the duo, they drew inspiration for their name from the hit reality dating show franchise. But in “Doomin’ Sun,” love isn’t all flowers and chocolate. Instead, it becomes blood, spiders, melted ice cream and lost sleep as the album’s loose narrative explores a romance that doesn’t live up to the infatuation that preceded it.

Palehound and Jay Som emerged around the same time in the indie scene but on opposite coasts. On their own, both artists have been making some of the most refreshing and earnest indie rock and pop released in the past five or so years. Now united as Bachelor, they marry their respective gifts into a unique, collaborative sound. The raw, grungy guitar riffs on songs such as “Sand Angel” and “Anything at All” are signature Palehound. The infectious vocal and synth melodies have Jay Som’s distinctive pop-y touch, buoying tracks — such as the aforementioned “Back of My Hand” — that are otherwise emotionally devastating. 

Other songs, such as the riotous “Stay in the Car,” are lighter and more fun. The real-life friendship between the two musicians is a tangible element of the album’s sound (and can be seen in the colorful and campy music videos Bachelor has released). They even include sound bites of themselves goofing around in the studio. Having lived, however, through the part of the 2010s where it seemed like everyone and their mom (ahem, SZA) was putting voicemails in their music, nothing snaps me out of the zone harder than random dialogue tacked on to the end of a song. I could have done without these production easter eggs, cute as they are, popping up in key spots like the album’s halfway point, right after the icily beautiful mental breakdown of “Spin Out.”

Lyrics have always been a strength in the artists’ past work. Jay Som and Palehound both write with the directness of a journal entry. As Bachelor, the duo’s lyrics are mantra-like in their repetition and simplicity. Songs like “Went Out Without You” and “Aurora” have a meditative quality to their hushed refrains. At the same time, the writing on this album is an unflinching look at desire and power dynamics in a relationship between two women as it sours. 

Full disclosure, I fell in love with this project from the moment I heard Bachelor’s hard-hitting first single (and stand out track on the full album) “Anything at All,” which combines terrifying lyrics with a driving guitar line and cathartic vocals, but not every song on the album is as effective. The album closer and title track “Doomin Sun,” for example, doesn’t quite hit home with its abrupt thematic pivot to climate change (somehow, one of the most cheerful songs on this album). Overall, however, Bachelor’s first LP is cohesive, both introspective and playful, and musically-compelling enough for heavy listening. It holds up not just as music, but also as satisfying storytelling and an exciting development in the indie music world.