Nots’ third full-length opens with a steady bass riff and tight drumming, high-pitched guitar notes meandering in and out of the repetitive, dizzying track. Then Natalie Hoffmann enters with straightforward vocal delivery, painting a picture of despondency. The song’s subject feels lost, eyes looking down, staying “low on the sidewalk.” It brought to mind the obsessive psychosis of the protagonist of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” where a shut-in woman circles her bedroom so many times she creates a “long smooch around the wall” where her shoulder fits right in.
The creepiness of Gilman’s story perfectly sets the mood for 3, a post-punk record filled with moody intensity and impossibly tight beats that get into the psyche like the onset of a panic attack. Though the Memphis band is now a three-piece, they haven’t lost any sonic depth—Hoffman now handles guitar and keyboard duties. The synth, while not present on every song, only increases the eerie feel, as in the otherworldly tones of “In Glass.” That said, “Woman Alone,” arguably the album’s best track, is synth-free; Hoffman’s guitar makes beautifully frantic sounds throughout, not unlike Carrie Brownstein during Sleater-Kinney’s more high-energy songs. “What’s it like / What’s it like / What’s it like to feel a constant gaze,” Hoffman implores. Like Gilman before them, Nots make clear that being a woman alone in the world can be crazy-making, but they’re making sense of the madness, finding their own center.
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