Woozy bedroom pop with a fuzzy heart and a Beatlesque soul. Without introduction, “Love or Death” dives directly into the eight-measure melody that becomes its backbone. The sound is buzzy and semi-distorted without ever losing its sense of sharpness and movement. There’s a big difference between fuzz and mud, and Jordan Geiger, Hospital Ships’ one-man band, embraces the former without getting stuck in the latter. Listen, for example, to how he processes and reverbs and layers his high-ranging tenor so that it becomes an important textured element of the music without at all losing its humanity. Listen too to that deep, cello-like synthesizer that provides a melodic bass line for the song, comingling as the song unfolds with a buzzing organ (maybe?) that manages to add both to the distortion and to the musicality.
The song’s brisk spirit is reinforced by its irregular structure. The eight-measure melody cycles through five times, each time with different lyrics; there is a break after the fourth iteration for something that might be a chorus except we hear it only once. The lyrics seem to rise and fall out of earshot, with certain phrases calling more attention to themselves than others. “Like a mirror just reflects his lonely twin” is one such line, ripe with sudden poignancy and deeper meaning—so much so that in this case, Geiger pulls the name of the whole album from this lyric: Lonely Twin.
The album is the second for Geiger as Hospital Ships, and is due out next month on Graveface Records. Geiger, from Lawrence, Kansas, was formerly in both Shearwater and the Appleseed Cast, and was front man for Minus Story. Thanks to Consequence of Sound for the lead here.