Eskimeaux – Year of the Rabbit (EP Review)
by Steven Spoerl
For the night’s second full stream, the attention gets turned to Eskimeaux‘s Year of the Rabbit EP, which has the unenviable task of following up O.K. last year’s Album of the Year. Before covering why Year of the Rabbit pulls this off with ease, a few more full streams appeared over the past few days that deserve mention: S-21’s absolutely vicious Demo, Closed Mouths’ rollicking 3 Songs, and a very tantalizing three song sampler from All People, appropriately titled First 3 Songs. While all of those releases were quite short, they all proved very adept at capturing attention.
Another release that not only captured attention but actively enthralled came courtesy of Eskimeaux, a band that’s been making all sorts of power moves lately. While the project’s early output had been consistent, thanks to project mastermind Gabrielle Smith’s unique artistic vision, it wasn’t until Eskimeaux became a full band that the songs started approaching the transcendent. In short order now, Eskimeaux’s issued one of the best records of the decade and an EP that’s all but guaranteed to be on this site’s list (and many others) come December.
Year of the Rabbit opens with one of Smith’s most effective production tracks, layering her voice into a sweet chorus that entices and soothes in equal measure. Slowly, the rest of the band kicks in, crescendos to a stop and strikes up a mid-tempo jaunt that serves as the bed for a characteristically nostalgic, human narrative. Less than a minute into Year of the Rabbit and Eskimeaux’s already concocted the foundation for an impressive composition with relatable angles.
After the airy rush of the title track, the EP devotes most of its time to songs that have been released in some capacity or another throughout the past year, including early 2016 highlights “WTF” (which was an easy inclusion for the 50 Best Songs of 2016’s First Quarter list), “Power“, “Drunk“, and “Sleeping Bear” (the latter of which was previously titled “Sleepy Bear”). While all of those songs carry an air of familiarity, they’re elevated by both the context of Year of the Rabbit and the natural flow of its sequencing.
“Bulldog”, the EP’s penultimate song, feels completely new and scans as the record’s most personal moment as well as its most riveting. It finds Smith operating solo, revisiting the roots of the project, and fearlessly embracing the band’s most definitive trait — vulnerability — on a staggering level. The song also offers up the EP’s most breathtaking moment in its hard isolation of the phrase “is it hard losing?”, which takes on a significant magnitude as the song reaches its conclusion.
More than ever, it feels like Smith is addressing herself rather than her audience as she tears into difficult questions about her own constitution. Each one of the EP’s seven songs is a gripping run through the songwriter’s psyche, the band’s ambition, and the dynamic that allows both of those elements to take on a symbiotic relationship. For that reason and — as is increasingly the case with Eskimeaux — so many other deeply ingrained reasons that reveal themselves over time and a certain level of investment, Year of the Rabbit stands out as one of 2016’s strongest releases. Get on board now and save yourselves the regret of showing up late to the party.
Listen to Year of the Rabbit below and pre-order a copy from Double Double Whammy here.