words: Kat Harding
DC punks Priests’ Nothing Feels Natural is exactly what we need in these absolutely maddening political times. It’s inauguration day as I write this, a dark, depressing day for many, seemingly setting the country back decades. A bright light from the nation’s capitol springs forward with Priests; Katie Alice Greer singing with G.L. Jaguar on guitar, Taylor Mulitz on bass, and Daniele Daniele on drums, putting together music that’s long been applicable to the nation's inherently unfair culture.
The 10-track album is their first big release, following tapes, a 7 inch, and an EP in 2014. Anyone telling this group to keep politics out of their art is wasting their breath -- the EP was called Bodies And Control And Money And Power, a supremely political and chaotic statement. The new album shows significant growth in songwriting, as well as new and varied influences, bringing even tropical pop and smooth R&B into the punk realm. With an incredible accompanying zine that features an interview with the band conducted by Jen Pelly, you get an intimate look into the minds of each band member on their personal history, reactions to recording and more.
The album tears open with “Appropriate,” a searing critique of the habit of taking something that isn’t yours and sucking all the money they can out of it. Female-fronted punk is no stranger to this feeling, as the Riot Grrrl movement was wrested from control of the people who started it in the early 1990s, the image and sound then repeatedly repackaged and sold, the meaning diminished each time. Punk, too, has been marked up and sold, as expensive patches on leather jackets and costly “vintage” band t-shirts liter the closets of people missing the message. “You’ll spend to buy something you can’t afford” Greer repeats, shaming our capitalistic and logo-driven society. Daniele notes in the zine that the utter chaos of the finish is a catharsis for the feelings of the band that recorded during a hectic schedule and low budget.
The lead single from the album, “JJ” dropped in October, complete with vintage-looking video directed by Greer, a reflection of a relationship -- “I wrote a bunch of songs for you,” she wails. The characters in the video are being poked and prodded by outside forces, barely holding it together, akin to how many in the world feel today.
Instrumental track “--” is an emotional and cinematic 1:17, playing behind two characters in a tryst coming to an end, a cello piece by Janel Leppin-Pirog. The sweet strings section hums quietly, before the silence ends and a surf guitar barrels into the title track. “Perhaps I will change” starts off the song, with Greer nearly whispering her end of the bargain, before coming to the conclusion that “you can’t talk to me that way” shouting it out to let it be known.
The album ends with the infectious “Suck” with Greer pleading “please don’t make me be/someone with no sympathy.” The tune under her words is almost a tropical dance track, punctuated by a strong guitar with serious California vibes. “I can tell you myself that you just suck” Greer says, putting into words everything we want to say to modern-day politicians. In the zine, "Suck" was deemed the most difficult song to write.
Priests is right: nothing does feel natural. But there is comfort to gain from this album, in both expressions of anger and hope. Get your copy from Sister Polygon here.