The New Orleans indie folk artist moves toward indie folk rock and finds new ways of expressing herself in the process.
The one-line story of Guts Club’s new Trench Foot is that Guts Club goes electric. Lindsey Baker is Guts Club, and she remains an indie folkie, but she has traded her acoustic guitar for an electric one, and with it came a band. Despite those changes, the meaningful difference between this album and the ones before it is her voice, and perhaps because it is different, so are the songs.
On her previous albums, Baker sounded so physically and emotionally fragile that it was never clear that she’d keep it together to the end of the song. Her lyrics bordered on oversharing, and that openness—matched with a frail voice that made the cost of her vulnerability clear clear—made The Arm Wrestling Tournament and Shit Bug genuinely dramatic. Her delivery sounded like a device that allowed Baker to sing her songs, and it worked as a necessary distancing agent. The abject moments in some of Shit Bug’s songs would be too painful if sung more conventionally. As is, they’re just hard enough.
Baker’s voice has toughened up for Trench Foot. She sings with a theatrical swagger that nods at Dylan and a number of country singers, and it too makes sense for the songs. Guts Club sounds less confessional this time out, and the songs come from an indeterminate moment in time. It’s not clear if the story quick-sketched in “Pansy from the Hills” took place last week, last decade or last century, and “Skin Dryer” sounds like a story that took place in an in-between space—somewhere not rural but not urban either.
That ambiguity in songs with less discursive songwriting that lets key phrases do an unequal share of the work gives Trench Foot an expansiveness that’s very different from smaller, very specific songs on her earlier albums. Both approaches are valid, and Guts Club makes both pay off. I can imagine fans missing the intimacy of her previous albums, but it’s exciting to hear her stretch and work in a less distinctly personal way.