REVIEW: Attic Static Sticker Star

The Normal Knees’ NFfCR debut, Attic Static Sticker Star shows the power of collaboration and conscience while exploring the themes of hypocrisy and hardship.

The Normal Knees have resided in the obscure corners of Bandcamp for a couple of years.  Amateur, free-download bedroom recordings, perhaps recorded directly into Audacity on a 2009 MacBook Pro, defined the band’s early existence.  It wasn’t much to talk about; given the self-deprecation at hand in the band’s latest effort Attic Static Sticker Star, the Knees would probably be the first to tell you.  But then the Knees got in the studio at the Nehemiah Foundation for Cultural Renewal.

However this came about, it has dramatically shifted the dynamics of both the Foundation and the Normal Knees.  Without the Foundation, I would guess that the Knees would still be making music in a bedroom somewhere, still hiding in the depths of the Web.  Without the Knees, the Foundation would likely still be tied to folksy music.  (While Death is Their Shepherd isn’t really folk, it’s still in keeping with the rest of the Foundation’s catalog in overall feel).  The collaboration between the two has resulted in an expanding of sonic horizons.  The Knees received the guidance they so desperately needed, and the Foundation received the viscerality it generally lacks.

While the album undoubtedly is the rawest in the Foundation’s discography, it isn’t deprived of insight.  Many tracks see through facades put up by runaways, peers, and even by the speaker himself.  “Next to Nothing” reveals a man’s hardships were self-inflicted.  “J Violet” takes compassion on the titular character and recognizes the girl’s problems are rooted in sadness.  “No Name Player” recognizes that the speaker and his contemporaries are stuck in the same traps.

In the album’s centerpiece “Baseball Diamond,” the Normal Knees deliver their rawest and most insightful lines.  In verses that seem even more authentic than the rest of the album, the speaker finds himself in a place of deception and seduction.  In the chorus, the perspective changes in relation to the speaker from first to third person.  Another voice is walking with the speaker to the baseball diamond.  Though the voice is internal, it provides him with an external perspective.  The speaker then realizes that he isn’t just telling the girl he’s with a “bullshit childhood anecdote;” he’s telling it to himself and trying to believe it as much as she does.

In this moment we find the album’s strongest display of conscience.  While the speaker may have blinded himself to his sins in the moment, he truly recognizes their wickedness in the end.  He acts against his conscience, but his conscience reminds him of the betrayal.  From here the speaker has a choice to leave this moment on the shelf or learn from his mistake, and the final repetition of the chorus suggests that he won’t be “pushing a thought to the back of [his] mind” any more.

In the end, Attic Static Sticker Star is an album about recognizing shortcomings and accepting hardships.  It’s not an easy road, and the speaker of the album doesn’t always get it right.  However, recognition and acceptance are the first steps to defeating hypocrisy and self-deception and bringing something good from the trials we face.  The Normal Knees clearly know what it’s like to walk this road, and this album fleshes out their experience so those who have yet to travel it may perhaps find a smoother path.

Attic Static Sticker Star releases March 25th, and it will be available for free download on Bandcamp.  Check out the Nehemiah Foundation’s Facebook event to get a reminder when it releases and enter to win some exclusive Normal Knees products. Watch a promo for the album below, featuring “Bad Luck Charm.”

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