Review by: Gimpleg
Knifethroat’s latest EP, Songs for Houseplants slipped under the radar when it released in May of 2022, but it is an incredible gem that didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved. It’s a six song DIY acoustic punk album that mixes in a little folk punk, but has excellent and sometimes complex guitar, keys, banjo, saxophone, and trumpet, layered subtly through the album. The horns aren’t there to blow you away or to carry the rhythm, instead adding depth to the tracks. The guitar rhythms aren’t catchy redundant rhythms like pop punk, instead they take you on a journey bringing you from chorus to chorus. The lyrics are dark but the vocals are clear and bring you on a journey, with excellent backing vocals and harmonies.
When I first put on the album, I wasn’t sure of what to make of the title- Songs for Houseplants. My first thought was that it was music that only a houseplant would enjoy, but it didn’t take long to realize that this album had a theme of loneliness, abandonment, and were songs sung in a house where the only one left to enjoy them was the houseplants. The first song on the album “Revisiting Songs from Dead Bands” includes lyrics like “you left without me, left me in the rain”. The song ends with harmonized vocals “I guess we’re okay”, but the themes throughout the song suggest that everything is definitely not OK.
The second song, Little Leaf, is about the protagonist singing to a metaphorical leaf, watching it grow, a dopamine shot to the brain as the leaf continues to grow and heal and flower. The chorus repeats “but we keep changing and we’re never the same, you’re something special don’t you ever change.” The change and growth are what brings the joy, but the fear of change, the change that is natural from growth, that the protagonist fears. The vocals in this song are pretty strong and really pull you in with the drums helping to pull you through the song. The repeated lyric of “don’t you ever change” at the end of the track really emphasizes the protagonist’s fear of abandonment.
The next track is Decay- my favorite track on the album, the guitar hooks after the first verse really just pulls me in. The harmonies through the chorus add a depth to the song that is probably the best on the EP. The metaphor of a building being haunted with a bad foundation and love and good intention being insufficient to save the building is somewhat beautiful, but also depressing and dark. The need to burn it down and use the ashes as fertilizer to grow something new feels attractive- unless you are the building.
These themes are pretty constant through the album, and it’s really a good listen. Rt 59 is kind of beautiful song about reckless caution- an idea I don’t recall ever hearing expressed through song. The horns added to this song really give it a beautiful depth, and the chorus of “these days won’t ever change” make me feel like I am living in the end stages of a failed and now loveless relationship. Again, the harmonized vocals really add power throughout the album.
The album continues with my least favorite track from the album, “Chasing Sunsets”. It’s not a bad song, and the guitar work gets really good towards the end, but the song feels like it lacks the musical depth that some of the other tracks have, with a stripped down drum and acoustic guitar rhythm carrying through the song and fewer harmonized vocals. This does add a sense of longing to the song, which is appropriate as the protagonist repeats the chorus of “if I could do this again, I’d sail this gallant ship hand in hand”. This is one of the first times on the album that the chorus isn’t harmonized- adding to the sense of loneliness and isolation. The protagonist is now longing for things lost.
The final song on the EP is easily the best song- despite not being my favorite. I would definitely recommend this song to everyone to understand exactly what knifethroat can be and can do. It starts with a guitar that pulls you in and a rhythm to the vocals that draw you to it and make you want to sing along even before you know the words- and that is the verses and not just the chorus. The harmonies are brilliant in this track, and the dark subject matter of depression and worse feel meaning. The echoing refrain of “I swallowed pesticides to kill the bugs inside they bite at every fucking thought” eats at you, and the end of the song features a hard-core inspired shouted version of the refrain over a more melodic “despite the end its worth it” bringing the whole album to a close.
I definitely enjoy listening to this album and I’m excited to hear what knifethroat does next. I found the story telling, the lyricism, the guitar work,the subtlety of the horns and keys, and the use of harmonies from most of the band to add a lot of depth to an acoustic punk DIY album. I think the next album from this band is going to be more polished and will probably reach a much broader audience