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Review: Sweet Lil' - Words of Dying

By Megan Fair, Copy Chief

[Self-released, 2015]

Rating: 4/5

Key Tracks: “Fall & Crawl,” “Scitzo”

Sweet Lil’, Athens’ own duo of Hannah Cook and Harold Bon, has finally released its first recordings. Self-recorded, mixed, mastered and released, Words of Dying is a comprehensive introduction to the gloom rock band and all its jangling, loud glory. All four tracks were originally written as personal and private acoustic creations by Cook, but she worked with Bon to fill them out and turn them into vast, driving soundscapes full of emotive touches. The result is four meticulously crafted tracks large enough to emulate the brooding lyrical content. The recording and production, executed by Bon, are exceptional for a self-released debut.

Many first efforts from bands are simply awkward baby steps, sounding strikingly similar to another band or falling into stereotypical tropes within genres. Words of Dying, on the other hand, is free of this rough, unoriginal start, instead portraying the unique spirit and sound that Sweet Lil’ has managed on first try.

“Fall & Crawl” is the most bouncy of the songs on the release and is an up-tempo number with jarring, distorted guitars under Cook’s unique and gentle voice. This combination of gritty and sweet is accented by the dark lyrics; Cook sings, “And you’re not coming back / You’re not coming back / ‘Cause the skin’s burned off your back and so / You’re not coming back.”

Conversely, the following tune is slow and audibly gloomy. “Faithfully Empty, Thankfully” oozes glum in its eerie, quiet verses and grimy, sonically huge choruses. The reverb-drenched vocals and loud distorted guitars in the mix hint at a more shoegazy sound, while the soft verses emulate a bittersweet lullaby.

Entirely soft and full of harmony, “Truly Aligned” contains the lyrics that give the record its name. The drums, softly played with brushes, sit quieter and subtler in the mix to make room for the pretty, bittersweet riffs and featured cellist Talor Smith of The Ridges. Cook’s gentle vocal treatment of the lyrics is perfectly suited to the mellow, drifting energy of the song.

“Scitzo” is a seven-minute odyssey of dark reflection upon the character of Scitzo. Lyrics like, “And like a knife in the throat / Or a bullet in the skull / Makes you feel so grateful / That there’s a heaven after all,” and “There is no hope for Scitzo / He’s going down so slow / And I hope he knows his soul / Is nothing but an empty, burning home” remind listeners that Sweet Lil’ isn’t just a loud indie rock band with edge, but in fact a dark, gloomy musical project that is strikingly emotive and pressing. The quiet, gentle verses bleeding into crashing choruses are reminiscent of high-tide waves on a beach in the dark of the night.

Words of Dying is a spectacular debut EP, its huge sound and distinct style making a strong entrance for the duo. Between the eloquent and brooding lyrics, the dark and driving instrumentation and Cook’s exceptional vocal work, Sweet Lil’ has managed to announce itself as a gloomy, ominous force to be reckoned with.

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