Long Neck began as the solo project of New Jersey’s Lily Mastrodimos, formerly of Jawbreaker Reunion, but has since morphed into a bona fide rock band of its own. We were big fans of the solo stuff, as our review of the previous album Heights will attest:
“[The album] reflects life rather nicely, with moments of hushed quiet and moments of spiky energy, of worry and sadness and carefree abandon […] captur[ing] that feeling of creeping slowly over that threshold into adulthood and the revelation that it turns out not to be the whole new room you always thought […] growing up is an exhausting, exhilarating series of events that takes a lifetime to complete”.
The themes on new album Will This Do? have moved on from the post-college worries of past releases, shifting the focus onto a recent period of turmoil, both in terms of break-ups and the passing of loved ones. The change is mirrored by a new line-up, the full-band Long Neck featuring Kevin Kim, Alex Mercuri, and John Ambrosio, putting meat on the bones to add a little indie rock dynamism to Mastrodimos’s personal songwriting.
This is apparent right from the beginning, as opener ‘Mine/Yours’ teams sincere vocals with crashing drums and taut, energetic guitar. It’s a song about being away from home, based on a period of touring Mastrodimos did with Jawbreaker Reunion. “It’s a very distant kind of song,” she tells Stereogum, “where you’re away from people you care about and you just want to be with the ones that you love, even though you’re doing something great.” The song also explores the fine balance between expressing your individuality and giving yourself over to the ones you love, a concept that is captured with disarming simplicity in the chorus.
“I want to say this simply
I want to make it pure
I wanna be mine and I wanna be yours”
‘Elizabeth’ is energised by the idea of returning home, the loneliness and worry of the previous track not quite beaten but at least tempered by the lights of New Jersey. The track is the perfect example of the new full band sound, though not all the songs are blazing rockers. ‘Matriarch’, one of several which originally appeared on 2016’s Spring Cleaning, is still essentially a folk song, backed with acoustic guitar and resplendent piano. The lyrics here are thick with nostalgia, a touching tribute that serves as both a pining for and celebration of the titular matriarch, and in the process fulfilling a wish of her grandmother.
The first of several tracks the overtly utilise the imagery of the natural world, ‘Lichens’ returns to the rock sound with a boisterous crashing. And we’re not talking some poetic description of leaves swaying in the wind, but rather actual ecology, presumably inspired by Mastrodimos’s scientific background, with the symbiotic lichen and its commensalist relationship the trees upon which it flourishes. ‘Love Letters’ is a sub two minute blast that rollicks around sweet lyrics about love letters written by grandparents, while things on ‘Ashes’ are heavier, big crunchy guitars and lyrics that deal with the ashes of more than just a cigarette (“we had a song we used to sing / fill our lungs, it was everything”). Returning to the natural world, ‘Hive Collapse’ then uses the threats facing honeybees as an allegory for exhaustion and unhappiness.
“What’s a body without sleep?
Hive collapsing around it’s bees
no buzzing no sweet dreams
just empty space where there should be honey”
‘Milky Way’ is the record’s main point of catharsis, framing personal worries against the incomprehensible vastness of the universe (“oh you said don’t be sad,” she sings. “I gazed upon into the black, the belt of the milky way, billions of bright blue stars gazed back”). But the final repeated refrain feels somehow triumphant, even if it details an emotional breakdown, probably because Mastrodimos takes a moment of vulnerability and loss of control and has it yelled in a chorus, which at least in part neuters the worst of such moments:
“I sat to watch the sunset
and I just fucking lost it”
Finale ‘10,000 Year Old Woman’ returns to the acoustic sound, perhaps the most emotional song on the record, and one which most explicitly deals with the themes of a breakup. “Please don’t tell me you love me,” Mastrodimos sings, “not now.” But, despite the difficult circumstances, there is also a sense that things will be okay, that our narrator has gained the sense of strength and self-reliance necessary to move on. Or rather, is working toward being strong enough and self-reliant enough, with this album being the furthest possible reach forward toward that place. Of course, it’s likely full strength and self-reliance will never be achieved, but it’s the strive toward those ideas that is the most important. Of course this will do.