Album of the Day: Patio, “Essentials”

The Brooklyn trio Patio favor ground-zero post-punk: the kind that percolated in the late ’70s, buoyed by simmering basslines, charred riffs, and ascetic arrangements. However, their debut full-length, Essentials, demonstrates the infinite possibilities afforded by such minimalism. That’s partly because the album is a giant leap in fidelity from Patio’s 2016 debut EP, Luxury; the production is cleaner and crisper, the sonic equivalent of creases on a freshly ironed shirt. At the same time, Essentials‘s arrangements are also taut and deliberate, and geared to maximize emotional impact.

Overlapping harmonies chatter nervously atop thundering guitars on “Vile Bodies”; the sludgy “Scum” slows from a brisk trot to a half-speed churn; and guitars fray at the seams throughout the fraught “Endgame.” Better still is the pogo-punk album opener “Split,” which explores the idea that rebirth comes from destruction. “Rip me to fucking shreds,” multiple voices demand at song’s end, before Alice Suh’s pounding drums fall away to make room for a lone, a cappella plea: “Then make me whole again.” Although this same precision bleeds over into the lyrics—witness the wry commentary of the lines, “I went shopping the other day / This week, I can afford to feel better”—Essentials doesn’t skimp on ambiguity.

Perhaps the best showcase of this amorphous approach comes with the B-52s-esque highlight “Boy Scout,” which also highlights the vocal chemistry of guitarist Lindsey-Paige McCloy and bassist Loren DiBlasi. It’s a song about struggling to reconcile opposing emotional forces: resignation and self-doubt on one hand, relief and optimism on the other. The former feelings are conveyed by clipped, detached delivery and lyrics full of self-doubt: “Never have the chance to choose / Naturally, I always lose.” A few lines later, the lead vocal switches to a lilting singing voice and a more positive outlook: “Ooh, I finally shut the door / I’ve been holding my breath for months here surrounded by the ghosts of before.”

Whether these lines represent an account of the titular individual treading the road less taken, a catalog of ongoing inner conflicts (or something else entirely) remains unclear, or maybe even immaterial. And that’s a very good thing—throughout Essentials, Patio challenge listeners’ expectations and, more importantly, encourage them to draw their own conclusions.

-Annie Zaleski

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