On a rather rainy Wednesday in the limbo between Christmas and New Year’s, my cousin recommended an album that would become a new favourite in the weeks to come: the debut album Guard Dog from indie-folk newcomer Searows.
Written, recorded, produced and mixed by Alec Duckart in the crawlspace under his house, the album, released on September 30th 2022, has an artfully cohesive sound that is both acoustic and delicate. Though the album may not be upbeat in its lyricism, Alec creates a ruminative yet comforting collection of songs loaded with introspective imagery, hushed intimacy, and acoustic strums — the quietly resolute sound of a man left alone with a guitar, a mic and his thoughts. While his vocal timbre is similar to that of Phoebe Bridgers, the way he utilises his mild, diaphanous vibrato to sustain notes is highly unique, creating an emotion-inducing, delicate, and powerful performance that pairs beautifully with his impressive finger-work on acoustic guitar.
Lyrically, the album represents a look into some personal relationships in his life, poetically, candidly and somberly emoting on the intricacies and intimacies of human relationships against a backdrop of warm, sensitive guitar for a simple yet devasting effect. First released as a single in July, ‘Used to Be Friends’ truly encompasses the direction Alec is taking this project. The track describes a complicated toxic friendship with intertwined romantic feelings along with the feelings of obligation, longing and pain that came with it. Opening with an enchanting acoustic chord progression layered over a distant soft horn, the artist creates a tender sound reminiscent of Novo Amor or Bon Iver. Alec proceeds to explain a situation in which he rejected this romantic interest for his own well-being and had to continue battling with this person’s constant pining. Each chorus closes with the line “We used to be friends” which he poignantly sustains, holding the note long enough to drive that absence home, making his vocals as much a purely sonic instrument as his guitar. The song is a powerful reminder that the lasting impact felt after relationships end, even the tough, complicated ones, isn’t singular. We should take time to reflect on these times and appreciate the lessons they taught us.
'Haunted’ is a track that almost makes you hold your breath. Its gentle chords guide you through a tragic story of loss and loneliness with Alec asking, “Don’t you ever wish the house was haunted?” These qualities lure you in with their softness and leave you with goosebumps. The album closes with ‘Crybaby’, a song containing some of the saddest lines I heard in any song last year: “I wanna stay alive/I do, I do, I do/At least I try to want to”.
The production and composition of the album are incredibly well done and the lyricism is so heartbreakingly raw and descriptive that any song will hit close to your heart. While it’s a powerful and emotional album, it’s also a reminder of the familiar melancholic indie-folk sound that so many of us love. It may have been close to the end of the year when I first listened, but I am so glad this album didn’t pass me by.