Indie Pop cave-dweller, Inns, presents a hazy debut of bedroom introspection, 90s Alt throwbacks, and a partial quarter life crisis.
Tucked away in a Boston apartment building is the man Jim O’Donnell, the sole proprietor of Inns, a quaint and intimate creative outlet for the young musician. Inns’ debut release Animal saw light in January 2017 with a subtle Bandcamp release, no apparent social media presence, and no known or foreseeable gigs. Although Animal lacks the markings of a project with serious intentions, the album’s intimate lyrical approach and candid bedroom production is refreshingly personal, like a long conversation with a new friend deep into the night.
More often than not, the linguistic mood of Animal leans towards a dark, brooding and blunt self-awareness. “I’m wide awake / regretting half of my life / is that just the plight / of twenty-three years old?” Existential introspection like this, found in the sluggish, synthy post-rock of “Making Sense,” is littered throughout. Linked to the quasi-depressive sphere of inward reflection is the more subtle and more endearing narrative of “the one who got away,” found in album highlight, “Above.”
“but I swear, soon you will be everywhere / you are bigger than this place, I think of you every day”—a track recalling Yo la Tengo’s Painful, notably the legato nonchalance of the vocal performance. What we tend to find in the pattern of lost love and the inevitable downward slump are the often awkward and regrettable rebounds, seen here in the (almost) Pop Radio friendly (and obvious house show favorite) “Party Talk”—“You said I’ll end up where I really want to, and that was very kind / I’m okay, I thank God you and I are only temporary.”
Inns has discovered a sweet spot in cross-decade Indie songwriting. Animal manages to blend elements of the more straightforward and linear songwriting of 90s fuzz masters My Bloody Valentine (with nods at times to Smashing Pumpkins guitar work) with the more contemporary, opaque, melodic workings of indie big-leaguers like (Sandy) Alex G and Porches. “Be Nice” employs a wet, swirling organ under the unassuming, yet brassy casualness of O’Donnell’s voice, before the eventual muddled distortion of guitar noise that takes the song away. Even the fifty-eight second “Morning” follows the vintage Porches playbook, featuring only a cloudy melody of bass and vocals.
Animal can best be described as a cocoon, a halfway point between a life that once was and a life on the brink of change. Inside this cocoon is a man with quarter-life skepticism and confusion, while the album itself serves as a means of self-analysis and understanding. It’s this hesitancy that makes Animal an endearing and relatable release. The thematic elements of Animal are things that most everyone deals with in life, and often has difficulty expressing in a meaningful way. Inns has shown us a soft approach, a warm invitation to listen, and a hopeful outcome.