Pet Library – ‘Pity Party’

By Ashwin Bhandari

Formed in early 2016, the Hertfordshire twinkly emo duo have been making a name for themselves within the UK DIY community. Their debut LP ‘Pity Party’ is the magnum opus of all their hard work thus far. Both guitarist/vocalist Tim Andersson and drummer/vocalist George Milner are only 19, but the mature shift in themes from their previous material is significant. Growing up in the UK can be a bit of a weird one — especially once you’re done with college, and you either go off to university or dive straight into the world of work. It’s the tail end of adolescence that people rarely talk about, but the opening lyrics to ‘Sockrates’ sums it up accurately: “Well, you’re 18 now, so how about sorting your life out? How do you expect to get anywhere, doing nothing for no one except for yourself?”

The most notable difference on ‘Pity Party’ is that — as with Modern Baseball’s frontmen Jake Ewald and Brenden Lukens — Milner and Andersson have found their own strides. Both express problems with past relationships and unrequited love which are the bread and butter of any emo band, and this time around they sing together on certain harmonies. However, to take in the autobiographical nature of Pet Library’s lyrics, it’s better to appreciate both songwriters for their own merits. Whilst Milner dominated most of the vocal parts for their EP material, here Andersson seems far more confident.

On ‘Blisters’ Andersson focuses on certain aspects of moving away to University such as doing laundry, trying to become a ‘real’ adult and the perpetual state of exhaustion that comes with being a student. With Milner’s lyrics, there’s more discourse regarding his own mental health, especially on the title track and ‘There’s A Reason People Are Staring.’ The blunt nature of lines such as “The constant loneliness I feel when I’m supposed to be in love”, comes across as sincere. The more instrumentally upbeat songs are also balanced out with the occasional quirky anecdote such as “My parents are going to fucking kill me” and “I don’t need you to pretend to like my stupid emo band” on ‘Walk You Home’. Loaded with captivating passion from the lead, tappy guitar riff, it’s the ultimate feel good pop song. The prevalent themes of house parties, parents, mental health and transitions to adulthood are charming and at times undeniably relatable. The sample at the intro for ‘Pity Party’ is literally the sound of Milner doing a backflip on a pebble beach, asking Tim “Hasn’t she got a boyfriend?”

Instrumentally, there’s a lot to sink your teeth into compared to a bog standard emo record. The Tiny Moving Parts inspired twinkles that Andersson is clearly fond of are far more carefully timed here. Typically, for a satisfying intro hook or a build up in the verses. The ear candy choruses on ‘There’s A Reason People Are Staring’ and ‘Pity Party’ will no doubt be stuck in your head for weeks on end, drenched in dreamy guitar melodies. Without a doubt, Bob Cooper’s production talents shine throughout this record, keeping the balance of crisp, noodly riffs over solid drum fills. There’s far less of a skramz influence on Pity Party but every now and then a cathartic gang vocal from Milner and Andersson creeps its way in. In that sense, the material is a bit more accessible on one level, but certainly not watered down.

As we get to ‘Doorsteps’ the record shifts to a far more serious tone. Whilst this song has been played live since late 2016, it’s this studio version that ultimately becomes the most hard-hitting. As Milner shares intimate details of his mental well-being, experiences with therapy and how far he has come, the song later explodes into action with raw drum fills and a dream pop hook. The mantra for the end becomes “I won’t be my anxiety, it’s getting better”, as we’re treated to a raucous post rock crescendo, closing with Milner’s isolated vocals, shrieking the words over and over. This level of catharsis feels like a positive way to end the LP rather than a fleeting cry of despair.

Overall, ‘Pity Party’ is a brilliant ode to post-adolescence, filled with intelligent lyrics and a unique spin on the twinkly emo genre. Pet Library ooze with confidence and charm, whilst still being able to talk about mental health issues in ways that we should all be mindful of.

ASHWIN BANDARI

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