rathbath is the recording project of Montana-native but New York-based artist Karlie Efinger. Her latest release, Dead Skin Cells, is the first of 2016 from WTD faves Fox Food Records. Efinger’s music is one of many creative outlets, and the one which she has no formal education and hence offers the most freedom. The resulting songs are what I guess you could describe as “bedroom folk”, sad and quiet and intimate, just vocals and ukulele, the simplicity of the recordings allowing Efinger’s poetic lyrics to shine through.
Dead Skin Cells is Efinger’s attempt to deal with a move to New York, an event which offered her first chance to meditate on the dark things in her life whilst being physically removed from them. This caused a lot of rumination on the importance of the familiar, and whether geographic location alone can have an effect on a person. In place of the regular bio or blurb, the album is introduced by a poem by Efinger’s friend Becca Uliasz, which captures this feeling far better than I can:
“maybe the places we are in change what we are
maybe context rubs off on us the way we leave dead skin cells in the places we frequent
maybe it leaves its cells on us the same way
and we just trade back and forth
until we aren’t us or here or there but a new thing altogether” – becca uliasz
Like most of the songs on Dead Skin Cells, opening track ‘mother’ is short and sparse and deceptively dark, just simple ukulele and Efinger’s soft and almost child-like vocals delivering lyrics darkly surreal. “in a dream me’s (?) were crying black blood and water / my mom didn’t see me floating like a sheet of paper.” ‘projection’ doesn’t even break the minute barrier, a sweet song about sending thoughts back home, and the personal stand-out ‘dark hearts’ sounds like its drifting from a quiet bedroom window, a feeling increased by the distant sounds of sirens, and has a chorus that is eerily resonant with the book I’m reading at the moment.
“We break our little hearts
you broke my little heart
when thunder struck your little life
when we were apart”
‘cereal box’ is a song about personal habits and (wrongly) feeling sad and stupid for being the person you are, opening with the perfect lines “he caught you in a cereal box said why do you eat so much? / said why you wasting my money a battle cries a crutch / he caught you in your room at two watching pokemon / said you’ll never do anything why you wasting your day off?” ‘sundrops’ feels reflective and somehow more hopeful, conjuring that golden feeling of watching a sunset and being aware of all your problems but not overwhelmed by them, of feeling like one little person in a very big world and being okay with that. All that’s left then is ‘will you’, which is about missing someone dearly, about sending letters and the solace in looking at the same moon.