Bleak and matted meanings from the near-gothic visualisation of Chloe Gallardo’s debut album, Defamator, is a striking scene to set. Even before diving into the likes of God Is Dead, There Will Be Blood and [untitled], the waning mysteries of an expectant and personal album shine through. Worst of all, New Jersey, is a track not at all about liberty or prosperity. No, Gallardo has the intricacies of an acoustic guitar to ease this mellow experience right into the cold, dying hearts of her listeners. Thick and distorted electrics spark a fire underneath the at-first hopeful acoustics. Gallardo makes the switch, the soft-spoken vocals countering the heavy tensions of apologetic flourishes and breakdown of habits, breaking for cover under instrumentals which seem to exorcise personal guilt and rage.
Perceptions of disappointment and heartbreak are par for the course in the indie-pop scene, it is how Gallardo adapts them and the uniqueness of her experience which makes it intimate and heartbreaking in equal measure. Paper-thin walls of family drama on God Is Dead maintain the necessity for maturity at an age which should not need it. Reflection guides Defamator to dark corners and honest recollections which Gallardo puts out there as a thankless service to listeners who can connect, relate and appreciate conditions of isolation and loneliness. For all its darker intrigues, Defamator is a bright light for those feeling as Gallardo does or did.
There is a distortion, a clanging feel to There Will Be Blood and its opening guitar riff. It suits a place of mind Gallardo interprets and understands thoroughly and openly along this half-hour album. Confused and used with a title track hitting home and backed up by the strangled whines of a brief, untitled interlude, Defamator uses this soft-spoken isolation as a way of hitting deeper and deeper. Every year has a handful of wailing, temperamental albums which fix up the mood of the listener, but Defamator may be the best of the bunch. There is a heartbreaking simplicity to New Jersey, a tearjerker which deals with the unrepentant attraction in the face of dirty tricks and a barrage of stunning instrumentals. Riding and rising through this wave of powerful mixing is a pleasure. Dredging up the buried experiences of the listener, smacking them with a dose of despondent reality and asking them to accept the empathetic coldness of some of the striking lyrics throughout is a treat for those late hours alone.
Crocodile tears wrap To See You Go up nicely, and the reflection which comes in the fallout of a breakup or a need to move on see Defamator carry itself with a weighty responsibility. How we respond to heartbreak and loveless days, trying to stomach a bowl of cereal while the mind drifts, that feeling of surrounding loneliness, is captured perfectly on this record. Gallardo has struck through with the rock-like comforts of her gutsy and open style. There is not a more thematically confident and conscious album out there this year. This is it. Defamator is a slide through the damage of personality, drifting off along not just through the fallout but the realisation, as The Way soon finds. Gallardo’s listeners can find this realisation too, hopefully. Defamator feels like the right project to open up to, to connect with.