There is one moment on Black Belt Eagle Scout’s Mother Of My Children when anyone with a pulse will naturally ball up their fists, close their eyes and groan with ursine glee. What that moment is depends on the shape and weight of your last heartbreak.
My moment comes around the dawn of the second track, “Indians Never Die,” maybe at the moment when the repeated vocal, “wasting” lays over the gentle bass line. The whole assemblage is like something from a dream that is both burning and inescapable. Katherine Paul’s vocal performance bleeds with a peculiar misfortune, one of lost symbiosis, one of a crumbling self, a sense that fills up the entire eight-track album. This is that moment when I know the experience of this album is a heart journey.
Mother Of My Children is the debut record for Paul and Black Belt Eagle Scout, following up on her transcendent but brief self-titled EP from 2014. Each of the eight tracks here are about a loss, which is obvious from the smoky hot rocker, “Soft Stud,” the opener that balances on the line “need you or want you”. Even there, while amidst a burst of reverential indie rock, you sense it’s more than loss though of a side-by-side partner; this album is about the wrenching away of a symbiotic partner.
The marauding synthesizer beat lends “Keyboard” a cinematic aspect. On this track, Paul’s vocals lift out of hush a bit, straining painfully into a higher realm. As gentle as anything I’ve heard this year, the title track balances tender vocal harmonies with hushed guitars, in a song that languishes blissfully instead of builds.
Mother Of My Children features big moments, huge moments even. On “Just Lie Down” the feedback-drenched guitars open up an immediate torrent of noise backed by calamitous percussion. It feels like a track off of REM’s Monster where the band uses a clatter to tell some of the story. Going way back on the opening track, “Just Lie Down” is the album’s second bona fide rocker, and Paul comes off a bit more bitter, singing, “you want yourself/what’s wrong”. As a closer, “Sam, A Dream” is surrealistic rock masterpiece laden with rich instrumental harmonies and ending with a stirring solo.
Mother Of My Children is a pulse check, and Katherine Paul needs to be considered one of the great new voices in melodic post-rock, a powerful female presence that will connect with fans of Feist or early Cat Power.