REVIEW: Eskimeaux - Year of the Rabbit

Laura Kerry

The lyrics in Eskimeaux’s Year of the Rabbit contain an above-average amount of two grammatical features: quotation marks and question marks. Sometimes she quotes a quiet lover who responds only with “I don’t know,” once she quotes Nietzsche (“every past is worth condemning”), and occasionally the quotes just float freely without a source. And she asks many questions—are you mad? What the fuck is a kiss? And do you possess the courage?

With all of these questions and quotations, Eskimeaux’s EP seems to hedge its way forward with an indirectness absent on her first album, O.K., which packaged candid reflection in sweet, clear pop tunes. But for all its uncertainty, Year of the Rabbit is no less powerful and no less pretty. Gabrielle Smith, the woman behind the gentle voice and catchy, melodious songwriting, has a way of turning hesitancy into strength. Take the use of "Are you mad?" in the opening song, for example: Alone, the question sounds fragile and insecure, but repeated four times in a row in the song, its anxiety is palpable and bold.

Some of the album’s strength comes from the contrast between its music and lyrics. Most of the six songs on Year of the Rabbit are sunny and a little soft around the edges, more suited to the line in “What the Fuck” about “puppy paws [leaving] muddy tracks on the sheets.” But instead of adorable puppies, the most striking creature on the album is a more violent one: “Wish I could love you less like a praying mantis / Rip your head off every time this starts to feel right,” she begins on “Power,” singing in the voice of someone who seems unlikely to rip a head off over shimmering guitar. Somehow, though, we never doubt her toughness, which is conveyed mostly through the vulnerability of her words. “I don't just wanna fuck / I wanna show you love,” she admits at the end of “Drunk” as an electric guitar whirs as loud as it ever gets on the album.

In general, Year of the Rabbit is a quieter affair than O.K., trading in much of the crisp synth and percussion loops of the first album for looser, live-recorded guitar and muted drums from bandmates Oliver Kalb, Jack Greenleaf, Felix Walworth, and Emily Sprague. The result is a boost towards the bedroom side of Eskimeaux’s bedroom pop—and on an album whose single, “Power,” includes the refrain, “What power can be drawn / From just a day of being alone,” that is a natural place to be. After an outward-facing pop album, Year of the Rabbit takes its time to close the bedroom door, ask some questions, replay some conversations, and quietly reflect.