Minor keys unlock haunting, sprawling melodies on Carol’s debut EP.

Still fresh to the Boston scene, Carol’s debut EP, Softest Destroyer, comes a year after the release of her single, “Lilies.” Carolyn Flaherty’s solo songwriter project takes on the moniker (and her nickname) Carol, with Ruben Radlauer on percussion (and production efforts) and Emma Stacher on bass. Flaherty’s vocals evoke Angel Olsen’s wavering folksiness paired with a burning clarity in self-reflecting lyrics.

Softest Destroyer is given more room to explore more complex feelings than Flaherty’s previous singles with similar acuity and poeticism, but electric guitar and more lush percussion and synth help us to feel the intricacies and nuances of the emotional terrain she explores.

The EP opens with “Castle,” guided by Flaherty’s sharp self-harmonies floating atop spare instrumentation. The song speaks to the different ways that two people build and grow together in a relationship, sharing, creating—and also destroying—places, objects, and things. The tiny crackles and pops as Flaherty slides her fingers over the strings create a rhythmic cadence that feels waltz-like, as if she is welcoming us to dance with her and her music. She sings, honey-smooth: “I still drip your thoughts into my hands / I swallow them without hesitation.” The harmonies echo almost endlessly. The circling guitar line and matching vocal part create a dizzying sensation. The addition of percussion about two-thirds through the song helps ground it, just as Flaherty layers on a thick stack of harmonies. So it goes with relationships: strong and steady until they’re fractured, and not.

The third track, “Clock” tackles one of heartbreak’s nuances: Flaherty calls her lover her “softest destroyer,” evoking the title of the EP but also the whisper-quiet hurt of knowing you should be letting go of someone you love but can’t be with. Flaherty sings: “I’d like to love you until this life ends / Why can’t I end this love for my sanity?” An accordion-esque synth line builds and opens into a twinkling, almost harp-like one. It creates a sweet, warm atmosphere that sets the out the welcome mat for Flaherty’s own heart. The track decrescendos into a satisfying, final glide across the synth before fading into silence–it’s stopped beating.

Softest Destroyer closes on the warm track, “Lives There Too.” The song features the most analog instrumentation of the whole record; the guitar is clear and crisp, with a measured bass line serving as the foundation. This contrasts the song’s lyrical content. Flaherty sings: “You watched me turn to watercolors/You watched me turn to gray/you watched me turn into all of the things I’d never say.” This juxtaposition highlights how bittersweet it can be to endure changes and loss in a relationship. She calls them “baseless fears;” the song embraces the inevitability of these changes.

Change can be a good thing, and Carol is a welcome, dynamic addition to Boston’s music scene. Her deeply personal lyrics paired with a lilting folksiness lighten the emotional load of Softest Destroyer, easing us into some of her darkest corners. Take pleasure in exploring them, and perhaps even your own in the process.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.