Call Me Spinster 2024
Photo: DH Jacobs / Missing Piece Group

Call Me Spinster’s Debut Pleasantly Jumps Through Genres

Indie pop’s Call Me Spinster possess rock-solid songwriting. Regardless of genre, they have a strong command of melody and an ear for intriguing arrangements.

Potholes
Call Me Spinster
Strolling Bones
12 April 2024

Call Me Spinster consist of sisters Amelia Graber Jacobs, Rachel Grabel Fortin, Rosalie Graber, and guitarist Alfredo Fortin. The sisters all handle multiple instruments, take turns on lead vocals, and harmonize on the backing vocals. Their debut album, Potholes, feels a little like taking a tour through the trio’s musical interests. These 11 tracks run through several distinct genres but mostly retain a distinctly easygoing, chilled-out vibe, even when the lyrics may set a different mood.

The opening track, “Feet Are Dirty”, begins with a single voice over dual synthy pulsing sounds, one high and one low. It pushes this simplicity through two quick verses, with the pulse unchanging for the first 30 seconds. Once the bass tone starts descending, though, the musical dam breaks. Drums quickly follow, the synths get some motion, and a wordless vocal hook, sung with “ooo’s”, enters. The rest of the song is pleasant, synthy indie-pop, anchored by that vocal hook and the refrain, “I wanna be free.” Call Me Spinster know when to push and pull, giving the track a little breakdown where the music gets very still before kicking back in. The song ends quietly, with just vocals and a variation on the opening synth pulse.

“Mule” represents a drastic stylistic shift from the album’s first section. Opening with softly picked acoustic guitar and a soulful lead vocal, suddenly, Call Me Spinster are in Americana territory. The upright bass and pedal steel guitar quietly join in, filling out the sound. Careful harmonies and simple banjo enter the song’s second half, subtly expanding the ensemble even though it remains a quiet ballad.

Call Me Spinster return to variations on this rootsy style a few more times. “Born in a Ditch” is pushed along by Jojo Glidewell on piano, keeping up driving eighth-note chords even as the bass and drums do a little of a doo-wop shuffle. A horn section is on hand for this one, and it increases the song’s bright, happy feeling. “White Lines”, on the other hand, uses accordion and clean guitar to set a positive but wistful mood. A soft but chugging snare drum comes in later, marking this as a rambling country song, which is solidified when pedal steel guitar also shows up. Then there’s “No Yield Sign”, which has a catchy, bouncy melody and style that very successfully falls somewhere between Melanie’s “Brand New Key” and Malvina Reynolds’ “Little Boxes”.

¬†Call Me Spinster’s other genre explorations are mostly fascinating. “Constantly Dying” is a dark, brooding song filled with disconcerting minor-key vocal harmonies, muted buzzing guitar, and sparse but ominous bass and drums. This song lasts nearly five minutes, but the vocal hook is strong enough to focus the listener as guitars and keyboards swirl through the background, creating an atmosphere. “I Went Down” opens almost as a chorale, with the sisters harmonizing over a single held-out organ chord. After 80 seconds of this, though, upbeat guitar and drums emerge, transforming the track into a bouncy, catchy pop track.

Potholes finishes with two very different songs. “Burn the Boxes” is another jaunty piano-driven track. It has lyrics that feel like snippets of a true story. “I will go with you to Florida / But your mother’s staying here,” followed by, “Let’s get drunk at the Orlando airport.” It’s got a great pre-chorus that begins with a single voice, then two, and finally leads into a chorus that sounds like it has about four different singers at once. A trumpet is here, too, often playing in dialogue with the piano fills.

“Potholes”, in contrast, is a slow piano ballad. In other spots on the record, this song’s arrangement would gradually add instruments and voices as it went along. For the closer, though, Call Me Spinster leave it as a solo voice and piano. It’s a very effective ending to Potholes, partially because it’s yet another different sound for the group.

The press materials for Potholes make a big deal about how the sisters started their group with whatever instruments they had on hand. Sonically, though, that mostly comes out as stylistic differences between songs. There aren’t a lot of exotic instruments on display. Instead, what sticks out is the rock-solid songwriting. Regardless of genre, Call Me Spinster have a strong command of melody and an ear for intriguing arrangements. That focus makes them successful throughout the smorgasbord of styles on display here. Potholes is a strong debut that feels like it should find an audience among many corners of the rock, pop, and roots music world.

RATING 7 / 10
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