“Mother of My Children” is the debut album from Katherine Paul, also known as Black Belt Eagle Scout. The album, coming out of the Pacific Northwest, features plenty of the grungy, flannel-wearing sound you might expect but with plenty of nuance and detail.
The album is said to have been recorded during a difficult period in Paul’s life and the emotions and trouble she experienced are on display. In her debut, Black Belt Eagle Scout offers a new, fresh take on distortion-heavy indie rock through the experience of deep emotions and willingness to expand far beyond the steady formulas of the genre.
The album being about loss becomes apparent quite early in the album. What is interesting is how she expresses this emotion across different songs and even in different parts of one song.
The first song on the album, “Soft Stud,” is a strong opener featuring a more alt-rock, distorted sound. A steady, plodding, muddy guitar strums the same chords repeatedly, creating an anxious feeling of dread. The lyrics of the song come in short repeated phrases directed at something in which the artist is lacking, saying, “I know you’re taken, need you want you, I know you’re taken.”
Paul’s guitar work shows her talent for crafting moving and powerful riffs that make the song emotional. The outro solo in which she plays just a couple rough, anxious notes is an epic and intense way for the song to finish.
A good contrast to the opening song “Soft Stud” is found in track three titled “Keyboard” which is a sparse, atmospheric, ballad-like song further emphasizing her heart-wrenching longing. The instrumentation is subtle with use of a drum machine and a keyboard as the title implies. She repeats haunting lines like “You know it surrounds you in the day, but it finds you in the night, finds you in the night.”
This nursery-rhyme-like repetition carries the theme of loss, pain and sorrow that runs heavily throughout this album. It is interesting how she utilizes such different sounds and genres to do so. In a review of the album on Pitchfork, they note that part of her sadness came from the passing of her mentor, Geneviève Castrée, and one can see the connection between their work. Castrée had a similar style of lo-fi indie folk which can be heard on many tracks on “Mother of My Children.” Track five, “Yard,” starts as a folk ballad before ending with drums and further instrumentation which gives the song a louder, heavier ending.
If this album were to be described with one word a good choice would be “loss.” She was clear that the making of this album was inspired by personal losses. This album offers much more than someone singing sad songs. That’s been done a million times already. She brings something new to the table, crafting uniquely emotional music.
Possibly the biggest highlight of this album is how developed and interesting Black Belt Eagle Scout is on her first release. With the release of “Mother of My Children,” Paul showcases her remarkable talent for expressive songwriting and leaves the listener eager to see what she will release next.