Words: Jordan Gorsuch
Kiley Lotz hails from Scranton, Pennsylvania and her musical project Petal has always been joined by a rotating cast of musicians. On her Debut LP Shame she partnered with Brianna Collins and Ben Walsh of Tigers Jaw to make an album that is both brisk and filled with pained longing.
The album plays out in musical fits and starts, bouncing from wistful acoustic numbers and powerful full-band anthems about overcoming false projections in your mind over the reality that crushes us daily. It’s musical anxiety, personified by Lotz’s powerful voice. Songs typically play out in slow-burn fashion with fulfilling crescendos and infectious melodies. These tracks share their part in a longer narrative about defeating that negative voice in our heads that tell us we’re worthless. Lotz presents us with windows into her reality, and her internal fears are on full display.
“Sooner” is one of the stand-out tracks that mixes heartbreaking lyrics and ear-worm vocal melodies. The bass dances around a song that plays with negative space and features multiple buildups. The song even gives way to a Tigers Jaw inspired guitar solo. The titular track features my favorite lyrics on the album, speaking about our desire to be perfect. “Maybe like a piece of sea glass/she’ll smooth out all her edges/and become gracefully transparent.” You have to love a person entirely, you do not get to choose what parts of them to love. You can’t sit idly by hoping they can shape themselves to be better.
There’s this fantastic running motif of moments in youth being captured by camera lenses. All these “positive” backdrops: surprise parties, braiding hair, summer, and dew on feet – but if you don’t like yourself it won’t matter. The camera can’t catch your feelings, you can trick a camera just as easily as you can your friends. On “Photobooth” the motif continues: “Photo booth pictures split us into two and two.” Even when you’re with someone, you can be continents apart emotionally.
“I’m not pretty, you don’t love me. I’m not funny, you don’t love me.” Kiley sings on “The Fire,” a song that rips through every single fault that the narrator possesses. The image of swimming in a fire sums up the album perfectly: we need to stop being self-fulfilling prophets, we’re only hurting ourselves.