GRLwood’s ‘Daddy’ uses scream-pop to examine identity, queerness

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GRLwood brings screamo and lo-fi together in a marriage similar to that of a quirky aunt and her wife who, despite an incredibly dysfunctional relationship, remain the greatest couple anyone has ever met. The band’s latest album, Daddy, features simple melodies, catchy bass lines and lyrics that will tickle your soul — then shatter it.

The duo from Kentucky calls its unique blend of musicality and enraged shrieks “scream pop,” a term that encapsulates the intense juxtaposition of the work. On Daddy specifically, contrasting soft and harsh, consonance and dissonance, creates a tone that changes constantly — a jumble of irony and antithesis.

Most of the songs begin with a soft tune, mellow drums and whimsical lyrics, similar to classic lo-fi music and a bit indicative of the riot grrrl era. Then suddenly they switch to powerful scream-singing, the right amount of abrasive and angsty. GRLwood makes this transition masterfully, intensifying the instrumental portions and increasing the musical cadence. Despite these consistencies in arc, each song feels special, never calculated or mass-produced, ranging in tempo and tone.

The song “I’m Yer Dad” has a fast enough beat for moshing, probably the only track on the album that does, but “Nice Guy” and “Vaccines” definitely pack a lot of energy too. On the other end of the spectrum, “C-State” and “Communicate With Me” are like screamo ballads filled with melancholy, perfect for gentle swaying. In short, GRLwood’s album shows the range and versatility of its musical style, from exhilarating to lulling.

However, unique musical style is not the only thing that sets GRLwood apart — it adds a sprinkling of queerness and subversive commentary on gender roles to every track. Both members of the band identify as lesbians, making their music particularly impactful and continuing the juxtaposition within the album. Wielding their queerness, guitar and drum sticks, the two-piece confronts the paradox of femme expectations and the band members’ lesbian identities, often moving between the docility conflated with femininity and more traditionally masculine personas.

“I’m Yer Dad” comments on gender roles that are often reinforced through binary perceptions of masculinity. Bandmates Rej Forester and Karen Ledford create lyrics that perfectly capture paternal machismo, such as “I watch sports in my man cave made for sports.” However, like most of the other songs on the album, its satirical nature resides at the forefront, as the lyrics are sung ironically with a pouty touch of whining.

Jokingly confronting rampant misconceptions about the origins of gayness, the song “Vaccines” pokes fun at the people who believe gayness is the result of external interference. Forester lists all the things that may have lead to gayness, starting with vaccines and football. As expected from the title, “Vaccines” delivers comic relief with its kooky lyrics.

“Nice Guy” satirically examines the plight of nice straight men and their many struggles when it comes to finding love. It starts, “God, I am such a nice guy / I just don’t understand why you all won’t fuck me,” continuing, “All of the bad guys get all of the good girls / And I just don’t understand why.” Forester whines these lyrics, poking fun at the nice guys with overdrawn problems.

GRLwood’s most popular single, “Bisexual” — a moody yet catchy track — perfectly captures the wishful despair of being in love with someone who is already in love with someone else. Forester moans, “Do you have a boyfriend? / I wanna be your boyfriend,” the melancholy taste of the words dripping through the melody.

Altogether, Daddy perfectly captures GRLwood’s spectrum of raw emotion with angst-ridden tracks that examine what it means to live in a gendered world filled with both heartbreak and fun.

Contact Casey Lane at [email protected].