Following a stream of singles released earlier this year, Chicago-based Colleen Dow brings us their debut EP, Inside Voices – a collection of five indie pop tracks, rich with airy harmonies and synthesizer fills that support a songbook of confessional, yet disaffected lyrics.
For a strong start, the EP kicks off with the insanely catchy “Bummer Summer,” an earnest apology from someone struggling with depression and avoidant tendencies to their well-meaning partner. The contrast between the upbeat music and the somber lyrics mirror the juxtaposition showcased in the song’s overall theme: sometimes you’re just sad, even when you seemingly have no reason to be.
“Childhood Home'' is an ode to the complicated relationship many of us have with our hometown and all the history that comes with it. Within the lyrics, Dow perfectly communicates the feeling of yearning for the comfort of the familiar, despite desperately knowing you need a change. The fluttering synth makes the perfect accent to the song, offering hope that the subject will finally break free of the past.
We experience a bit of an energy shift with the acceptance anthem “Radiator,” which describes the moment of giving up on a toxic relationship. A slow and steady drum beat guides us through the bitter verses, while the soaring guitar line helps Dow confirm they’re better off alone.
“Redline” espouses a similar musical formula to the opening track, featuring spoken lyrics paired with an energetic drum beat, reminiscent of Matt and Kim circa 2009. Lyrically, however, the song is nothing like the late-aughts pop duo, trading in their upbeat lyrics to follow the subject down a spiral of self-loathing.
The EP closes out with what might be the most vulnerable track in the repertoire, “Lil Kid.” Leveraging a child-like piano line and playful percussion, Dow describes how small one can feel when desperately trying to win someone’s affection.
Overall, Inside Voices is a very strong debut from the up-and-coming artist, who signed to the label Count Your Lucky Stars ahead of this release. Dow is a bit of a magician – blending sounds and subject matter that wouldn’t typically be paired together, but it works. Hopefully, more magic is on the horizon.