Breezy pop music meets exquisite storytelling in Eskimeaux's Year of the Rabbit.
For an album titled Year of the Rabbit which refers to 2011, Eskimeaux's latest release sounds surprisingly fresh. Unlike many pop artists of today, Eskimeaux's Gabrielle Smith is perfectly fine with taking it easy when it comes to her music. The stripped-down, downtempo tracks that accompany Year of the Rabbit are an especially relaxed alternative to modern pop, focusing less on grandiose production and ornamentation and more on the natural beauty of the music and the honesty in the lyrics. It all feels like an invitation right into Smith's head, which is definitely a good thing considering how interesting Smith is.
The music on Year of the Rabbit is short and very sweet with its breezy tunes. Only the closer, "Sleeping Bear" exceeds three minutes on the six-song collection, but in the near 15-minute set, Smith's lyrics take on an enormous range of emotions with both clarity and depth. To aid in this endeavor, she turns to the art of storytelling, displaying her songs as a loose chronological progression of a relationship. The first song and title track seem to showcase Smith and a partner crippled by insecurities. Smith starts off her narratives with one of the most evocative lines on the album as she asks "I am feeling good / Are you mad?" She follows up her question with many more, but she never seems to get a satisfying or clear answer. By the end of the song, we're almost as lost about the state of Smith's relationship as she seems to be.
The next couple songs make mentions of the month, presumably the amount of time since Smith and her partner have split up. She struggles with what she should feel in this period, still as unsure as ever about her ex. In one sense, she's feeling stronger and more secure now which we can see as she affirms her independence on "Power", saying, "Oh! What power can be drawn from just a day of being alone." Other times though, the loss of her relationship hits her much harder like on "Bulldog" where she almost hopes "Has this month been tough / Is one month long enough / For you to feel free / And like the 'kind of dude who would be with me?'" "What the Fuck" takes a sweeter approach, as she describes a kiss by saying "Keep one for you in my pocket like a candy / Something tells me you've got one saved for me."
It's closer "Sleeping Bear" that acts as a bittersweet resolution to the album as our main characters are seemingly back together or are at least sleeping together again. Instead of nullifying the feelings that continually sway back and forth though, it merely cements them. The rekindled relationship is shown as having come full circle. It's still full of fear and unsureness, but we also get traces of love, like when Smith describes every bump along the way to be a reminder of their "calm and cozy love." It's a messy ending befitting of the whirlwind of emotions and experiences that come before it. It's not a story you can just slap a happy ending onto. It's a living, breathing tale, and it's all the better for it.
It might all sound like a lot to take in. I could write pages about all the small things Smith has slipped into her lyrics (which is astonishing since the music is only about 15 minutes long), but it doesn't really end up being a problem. While each and every line functions as a meaningful piece of a whole, it's also easy to take each lyric at face value, getting lost in the story and Smith's beautiful portrayal of her vantage point. It's all pretty customizable too. Mostly we just get passing mentions of chronology and specific situations through Smith's stream of consciousness and contextless quotes, all just pieces of a puzzle. How we put it together and how much we choose to dig into it is up to us. Though the desire to do so comes entirely from Smith and her exquisite knack of telling an honest story.