Proper - I Spent the Winter Writing Songs About Getting Better (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Proper

I Spent the Winter Writing Songs About Getting Better (2019)

Big Scary Monsters


Two years ago when I reviewed Great Wight’s debut album, The Suburbs Have Ruined My Life, my only real complaint was that the band’s name was pretty stupid, being simply a misspelling of a famous band’s name, especially considering that the band whose name they stole is infamous in my home state for starting a nightclub fire that killed 100 people. Thankfully, in time for their second album, I Spent the Winter Writing Songs About Getting Better, Great Wight did the smart thing and changed their name. The band’s new name, Proper, is admittedly a bit non-descript and difficult to search for online, and there are several other fledgling bands out there with the same name. But it’s a huge improvement over Great Wight. So introduce yourselves to Proper, the best punk band that absolutely nobody is talking about.

Proper really sets themselves apart from other punk bands out there. While their music could be described as emo, their lyrics actually blur the line between the political and the personal, as frontman Erik Garlington’s lyrics are generally about the trials and tribulations of growing up as a black, queer punk in the bible belt. It’s an experience not normally talked about in punk, and Garlington doesn’t shy away from talking about his identity in very explicit terms. It’s a raw and personal album that’s also making a bold statement about inclusivity and intersectionality. And it’s wildly fun along the way.

After a brief instrumental introduction track, the album kicks off with a song called “Curtain’s Down! Throw in the Towel.” The title is a reference to the opening track from the previous album, “Curtain’s Up! It’s Showtime.” The song is an introspective look at the band’s career in show business and the ups and downs involved with it. Garlington’s lyrical style is somewhat unusual in that he will shove more syllables than naturally fit into a stanza, but it works really well somehow.

“No Loitering” is a rollicking fun song about boredom in a small town. “Bragging Rights” brings in some female vocals from Willow Hawkes of The Sonder Bombs*, making a beautiful song about sex and gossip with a very strong melody that stands out as a distinctly different style from the rest of the album. Then again, there’s a wide enough variety of styles on this album that almost every song stands out as unique. “Trill Recognize Trill” uses stories about giving head to tell the stories of Garlington’s failed relationships in a very melancholy emo tune. “A$AP Rocky Type Beat,” which was released as a single by Big Scary Monsters Records upon the announcement of the band signing to the label, talks about the intersection between queerness and masculinity in a song that abruptly changes tempo several times in the song, ending on someone beatboxing over emo guitars.

“Lime Green Jheri Curl,” a very emotionally wrought song, takes us through the experiences of a black youth who is outcast for not being “black enough.” “Fucking Disgusting” I just have to give props to for the amazing opening lines: “What do you call a guy who doesn’t give but expects to get head? You don’t!” It’s also pretty remarkable for the fact that the song just descends into a cover of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” at the end for some reason. The title track, which closes out the album, is one of the most beautiful songs on the album, wrapping up the album with an existential rumination about existence.

There are so many things that Proper is doing on this album that I don’t hear anywhere in punk. They’re not just unique, they’re brave in what they do on this album, talking about topics that need to be talked about in general, but particularly in the punk scene that prides itself on inclusivity but then tends to be a straight white man’s game. I Spent the Winter… is an album that isn’t being publicized very well, as evidenced by the fact that, even after receiving the promo copy of it, I had to really dig to find the album’s title and release date. Even the record label’s website didn’t list the release date anywhere. I had to get one of our editors to ask the band when it was coming out. It’s a shame, because this is some groundbreaking punk that needs to be heard far and wide. This album should be a gamechanger, and if the label isn’t going to tell people this, then let me be the one to tell you: this band and this album are nothing short of revolutionary and you need to listen to it and let it change you and the entire genre for the better.

*Correction - the reviewer initially assumed the female vocals were provided by bassist Natasha Johnson due to lack of mention in the promotional materials provided. The proper credit has now been announced and the review has been edited accordingly.