Under Review


#2 Demo (Self-Released)

by Josh Gabert-Doyon


It’s easy to throw around words like “raw” and “vulnerable” when talking about lo-fi punk releases. But #2 demo does more interesting things with genre than simply wear it as a fashion.

#2 demo has that empowering emo, “we’re all in this together” spirit, found most explicitly in folk-punk. There’s a link there I already half-regret making — this isn’t a folk-punk release. #2 demo’s vulnerability isn’t nearly as forced as some of the music coming from that genre.

Pinner’s shaky, out of tune vocals might sound like they belong on a folk-punk anthem, but the two don’t really originate from the same source. Everything is held together by a string, sure, but it’s not held together in that sort of aestheticized folk-punk-y way. It’s not deliberately seeking to announce its vulnerability.

You can tell the members of Pinner set out to just write compelling music: that’s where the honesty emerges. It’s an attempt at creating a good demo, and the attempt feels like a successful one.

There’s typical tape-rock trappings here — it’s melancholic, it’s really personal, it’s cathartic — but something interesting and original comes from it. Often, it seems as if this album was written individually in parts — there’s a good riff, a good bassline, whatever. They don’t clash with each other, but they each feel independently dense and focused. And in part because of how the demo is mixed, the individual elements seem distant from each other. It’s this stripped down composition that defines #2 demo. It feels practiced, but it’s still practice.

“Learn to swim” exemplifies this best. The song begins with a false start and then builds up energy through repeated melodies. It sounds as if someone is replaying a section of a song while sitting on a dingy couch in their basement in order to learn it; the composition emerges from the mechanics of practice. There’s force in that indeterminacy.

It would be far-fetched to call this an “exploration” of the demo as form, but there’s definitely a reason why it’s released as a demo and not an album.

There’s a great deal of honesty in the way #2 demo is played. Our relationships, communities, and lives can often feel like this everyday practice of repetition. But like #2 demo, our relationships, communities, and lives are works in progress — and that’s pretty rad.