Detractors might argue Gymnastics is too simple, basic, short, and stripped down, but this is what makes the album work so well.
Here we find ourselves in the mid-2010s—more specifically, late 2016. If you haven’t caught on, currently there are a wave of young talented, creative, and art school–esque young women dominating both the mainstream and alternative. We have Lorde, Lana Del Rey, MØ, Grimes, Melanie Martinez, Banks, Marina and the Diamonds, Kimbra, and so on. Coming onto the scene now is Washington, D.C.-based post-punk artist Eva Moolchan, who beautifully joins these talented young women under the moniker Sneaks. What allows Sneaks to stand out so far compared to these other artsy female musicians is that, instead of going into the pop/alt-pop direction they’re all opting for, she’s going in a sassier punk route that’s raw but still incredibly charming and bold at the same time.
On Sneaks’ debut album Gymnastics, rereleased by Merge Records, we get a short, 10-song collection of minimalistic beats set to Moolchan’s dry, yet playful voice, alternating between spoken word and speak-singing. With the amount of overlayered hyper pop coming out from solo female artists, both in the alternative and mainstream, Gymnastics feels like a response as well as a breath of fresh air. While Gymnastics barely qualifies as EP length, the short songs flow together well and create a consistent atmosphere that’s almost ADD due to how fast and sudden each song changes without the listener really being immediately aware.
According to Moolchan herself, the concept behind Gymnastics is her playing with language and the way it’s used in mundane symbols, slogans, and ads. This idea is effectively executed, with the overall production of album being very stripped down. The space in the minimalist nature allows Moolchan’s sparse vocals and performance to be even more bold and daring, but also demands focus in her words. In knowing the concept, the short, ADD nature of these songs is possibly a reflection of our fast-paced, short-attention-span society today.
The instrumentation of the whole album is literally bass guitar and drum machine, until the last track when a simple synthesizer is introduced. Allegedly, Sneaks is to have a follow up to Gymnastics early next year. Perhaps the next album might expand on use of instrumentation, but for the time being, the Sneaks sound works effectively.
Detractors might argue Gymnastics is too simple, basic, short, and stripped down, but this is what makes the album work so well. These critics don’t realize that Gymnastics is a case of “less is more.” Not everything needs to be a complicated, elaborate production for it to work, and sometimes brilliant minimalism (which is difficult to execute) trumps the work of the overly ambitious. Others might listen to Gymnastics and argue, “I could do that.” The response is simply: “But you didn’t.” B | Michael Cheng