Sprints 2024
Photo: Niamh Barry / Riot Act Media

Sprints’ ‘Letter to Self’ Is a Powerful Reflection

Sprints’ lyrics are sharp and direct and their musicianship provides tension and release across all 11 songs, which have a hooky rawness that is addictive.

Letter to Self
City Slang
5 January 2024

Ireland’s Sprints have been on the rise since their formation in 2019, and finally, we have their full-length Letter to Self, a blast of anger and catharsis equally equipped to support a circle pit at a club or a night at home alone breaking down. It sounds nothing like the empowering hardcore sounds of American bands like GEL, but it does have a similar mission. It would be hard to come up with a more apt name for this record; while singer Karla Chubb addresses the listener as “you” frequently, it could easily be her having it out with herself and building herself back up.

Chubb’s voice recalls some of the best; you can hear Jehnny Beth and PJ Harvey in the righteous, soulful fury in her voice. It is easy to feel what she’s feeling, from a whisper to a shout, from joy to pain. Her lyrics are sharp and direct, and the band is there to match her, providing tension and release across all 11 songs. While far from poppy, the songs have a hooky rawness that is addictive.

Sprints sought to capture the feeling of anxiety in the opener, “Ticking”, and they succeeded. The song keeps the listener off guard as it builds and builds until it explodes. It’s easy to imagine this track being positively electric live. You can practically hear the crowd scream, “I don’t know if I go harder, is that better at all?” along with her and see the crowd explode. “Cathedral” is filled with provocative and unsettling images such as, “They say you call it punch drunk love, call it power to abusers / They say I’ve gone cold while I’m sat drowning in the gutter.”

“Shaking Their Hands” takes a page from Hole, sounding a little like a cross between their “Jennifer’s Body” at first but exploding into a Savages-adjacent big chorus. That band’s influence is also heard on “Adore Adore Adore”, a powerful reclamation of self, with the killer line, “They never called me beautiful / They only called me insane.” That resolve, that act of defiant self-love, is what delivers the goosebumps even as you want to get up and dance. The guitar solo in “Shadow of a Doubt” also produces that feeling. “Can’t Get Enough of It” echoes PJ Harvey’s most menacing lyrics but has a more direct, massive sound courtesy of producer Daniel Fox of Gilla Band. 

This relentless pace and dark lyrics are balanced by a couple of tracks that are lighter musically, if not lyrically. “Literary Mind”, undeniably the catchiest song on Letters to Self, an ode to a woman who is a “killer and a thriller”. By the time it turns into a full-on anthem, it’s hard not to smile ear to ear. “A Wreck (A Mess)” builds into a cathartic chorus and contains the best line on the record, “Could I even pass my own damn Bechdel test?” 

The title track closes Letter to Self, and it is a glorious declaration of self that finds Chubb exploding all the pressures to be happy a certain way, to look a certain way, to be a certain way to live. But then the final inspiring lines are delivered quietly, and it is a stunning way to call attention to the message that there is hope, that we can all carve out our own paths and break cycles of bad habits. It is a hope that feels hard-won, but those are the victories we savor most sweetly. 

RATING 9 / 10