By Casey Curry
This is a record for everyone who came to college thinking they’d figure it out here, but are still waiting for life to start making sense. Sidney Gish in her album No Dogs Allowed paints a picture of what entering your twenties is like, using humor and quirky metaphors she take us on a trip through her mind. From depression to food logs, you see the fear and absurdity of a girl entering the “real world,” trying her best, but still feeling the anxiety and shame of not fitting in. The lyrics are smart and witty, and every song is its own. On this album Gish isn’t playing with the bedroom pop sound, she’s making her own style, using humor as a means of introspection.
Bedroom pop that deconstructs early twenties life is in no way short in supply, but Gish is more than just another voice with a guitar. The record starts off humorously in “Bird Tutorial,” a song of chimes and guitar that bounce over a sample of an old record that teaches birds to talk. The next song “Sin Triangle” takes the pure humor of “Bird Tutorial” and brings it into real life with some of the best lyrics on the album. “Maybe I wanna see him, but then again I’m an isolationist, and on an accident I’m like Japan before they went and traded stuff to other lands.” The song presents these quirky metaphors and images of Gish feeling anxious and isolated, but also cuts to a sample of an old tape, what personality is and how you show it. She loosens you up by masking her problems in humor, but then samples in these very straight up questions about how you conduct yourself in a group. The juxtaposition of this approach drives home the anxious themes of this track.
She continues to explore the feeling of not fitting in on the track “Sophisticated Space,” a fun pop song about her struggle to fit in the adult world. She’s got this very relatable attitude, or crutch, of trying to call all her faults before anyone else. It’s very much an indie kid’s indie album. “I’m Filled With Steak, and Cannot Dance” has my favorite line on the album in, “bad days too have no restrictions on the mood, just the degree of effort.” She just does such a good job of putting to words these really specific, frustrating issues that come with being a college student.
“Where the Sidewalk Ends” marks a turn in the album that started on “Filled With Steak…” Here she sings to a lover or ex about their relationship only working when she doesn’t think about all the lies. This takes us into the wanting to get better part of the album. “Moth Log” is another funny, yet somewhat uncomfortably specific song. “I hate class, and I hate work, but doing nothing is even worse” feels like it’s mocking me. This song is her realization that she’s in a pit, starts working on herself, but still comes up short. in, “I Eat Salads Now”, she tries to make herself feel better with concerts and drugs, but still “there’s no progress, just good times.”
The striving for progress ends with “Rat of the City.” She gives up on trying to mold her personality to fit her partner’s, accepting that they are just too different, but without that model to strive for she is forced to give into the scary fact that she doesn’t know who she is outside of her relationship. “Not but for You, Bunny” is a flashback to her originally meeting her partner. It shows Gish with rose tinted glasses, walking in the gelateria, and him working the register, but when she goes up to order he has to remind her that she’s in a pizzeria. This track shows how the relationship was damned from the start, she created a character of her partner and fell in love with that. She then tried to build her personality around the character, and when the person came through, she was lost, her model didn’t exist, her partner wasn’t who she wanted and she didn’t know who she was. The song “Impostor Syndrome” wraps it all up. She imagines herself as a dog because she can’t fit in as a person, but she also can’t fit in as a dog. In this track she realizes she can continue to go on hiding her emotions since no one will call her out, but at the cost of feeling like an impostor of herself.
The album is very personal. Gish shows what colleges like by replaying her experience, knowing others will relate. She doesn’t deal much in universities other than what you can extract from her personal story. This again is very common in the Bandcamp indie scene, but Gish sets herself apart with her sense of humor and her songwriting. Every track on this record is its own, with a different sound, aesthetic, and theme. Gish is a great young artist who put out a great record in No Dogs Allowed and hopefully will be keeping it up for a while.