Chain is a self-titled debut released by Portland’s Jigsaw records. This is a short album consisting of 9 songs that you can breeze through in 14 minutes. Although minute in length, these quick-fire jabs provide a surprisingly solid punch. The band blends power-pop with rousing guitars and bristling drums, fronted by female vocals that provide a good dynamic range of strong and gentle as needed. In this aspect Chain resembles acts such as Soccer Mommy and The Beths, especially in how their songwriting commonly covers themes of young love, complex emotions and relationships.
Despite being a first release, Chain seems to have their chemistry and concept figured out quite well. Every instrument is played in the pocket, especially the drums, which blends and headlines the guitars quite well. Not to mention the stellar vocals and how their song structures can make the best out of their mostly sub-minute lengths. It’s a shame that this album seems to be a one-and-done for the band, as side projects and members moving out may hinder the group from collaborating again. Still, there’s nothing stopping us from diving deep and enjoying this gem.
“Sailor Song” opens to a lively jazz drum groove, but the entrance of sinister guitars evokes a sense of something ominous rising from the horizon. “Tiny” is sensitive indie pop with lush falsetto vocals and a condensed yet effecting song structure. Despite its short runtime it goes through dramatic shifts in emotion with its chord changes, starting with a somber yet energetic push then falling into a slow descending spiral by the outro.
At first listen I keep wishing these songs were longer, but as soon as things ‘click’ I find them more and more complete and perfectly consistent with the whole record. “February” expresses its feelings on a complicated relationship with a slow vulnerable start but elevates into a more vexing tone as it progresses. The combination of soft vocals and churning guitars makes “Movie” a short roller-coaster that leaves you wanting for more, yet it perfectly captures the feeling of a relationship kept hanging, which is hinted in the song.
At the tail end we find three one-minute sketches. “Cassie’s Chain” is a hazy interlude noise under turbulence. The jarring tempo change in “Pinecone” captures the wishy-washy feelings of indecisiveness. “Naked Hour” is heavy power pop with heavier emotions, headlined by the lyric: “I got out of the shower dirtier than I got in.”
Chain is short and simple but doesn’t lack in depth. Although it kept me wanting for more, as far as I can tell, there aren’t a lot of better ways to spend 14 minutes..