Yowler’s Black Dog in My Path is a transitional piece. The album sees songwriter Maryn Jones reflecting on her own self as she searches for place in a new home. After moving from Columbus, Ohio, to Philadelphia, Jones’ creative endeavors took a hard reset.
All Dogs, a Jones-fronted garage punk band, entered a state of uncertainty with its members spread across states and her participation in the psych-folk group Saintseneca came to a halt as well. Here on Yowler’s second album, Jones exposes intense self-reflection while broadening her musical scope in ways that both reflect and contrast her previous work.
Black Dog in My Path thrives at its most musically dynamic moments, moving from sludging fuzz on “Where is My Light” to dark synth pop on “WFTK” to gentle woodwind-backed songwriting on “No.” It’s a long step from the reverb-soaked, quiet intimacy of debut album The Offer and also a welcome entry point for those who’ve admired Jones’ work in other projects.
Jones’ thoughts on Black Dog in My Path revolve around recognizing one’s self, generally in regards to one’s past. “Holy fire from the center of the earth, take me under back to where I’ve been,” she sings on “Holy Fire.” Along with place, religion plays a heavy role in this analysis, reflecting on the dissonance between a religious upbringing and a present existence.
On “Holy Fire” these thoughts play out intimately at first, shown with soft guitar and vocals, before exploding into something bigger, a thunderous fuzz ending. It’s representative of the album; what may seem personal and private grows until it threatens to overcome. Much of the album speaks to sadder feelings, but the range of sound expresses that even more vibrantly than Yowler’s debut.
The musical growth likely comes in part due to the contributions of Kyle Gilbride who produced the album and played several instruments throughout. There are clear similarities to his previous work with groups like Waxahatchee and Radiator Hospital, fuzz crescendos and an increased use of vocal harmonies among them, but Jones’ songwriting distinguishes Yowler from those acts.
The clarinet-accompanied duo of “(Holidays Reprise)” and “No” stands as evidence of both Jones’ own sonic explorations and distinctly somber songwriting. Still, it’s hard to listen to the new wave-style groove of “WFTK” without recalling “La Loose,” the similarly unexpected, dancey synth track that appeared amid Waxahatchee’s Gilbride-produced 2015 album Ivy Tripp.
Beyond the upbeat rhythm, “WFTK” stands out from the album for its optimism. On paper it may be just as lost and longing as the rest of Black Dog in My Path, but the propulsive groove gives those questions a feeling of hope. That feeling isn’t void from the rest of the album, though. Early in Black Dog in My Path, on “Sorrow,” Jones admits, “if all we are is what we felt, than I guess pain is mine,” but then concludes, “if we make it through these times and more sorrow is all we find, I hope I can at least leave something behind.”
The sadness comes with an underlying determination—one that’s hard to ignore given the ambitious and rewarding arrangements that Yowler presents here.