Litter Party is an Akron-based duo comprised of Billy Palmer on guitar and vocals and Jim Curtis on drums, percussion and keyboard. Their latest album, “Memory Loss,” is a heartfelt indie rock splash that balances an often upbeat sound with lyrics focused on the theme of recovery.
The album’s Bandcamp page explains that the record is “dedicated to anyone who has struggled with addiction, with codependency, and with those traumatic emotional experiences that can leave us confused for so much of our lives.”
“I was really involved in a twelve-step group at the time [of writing the album],” Billy says.
“There’s a lot of shame in the songs, like there often is in twelve-step rooms. And fear, and panic, a general sense of walking through life with this sort of casual fatalistic mentality,” he adds. “My only hope for a listening experience would be for someone to hear something that they can relate to, that they maybe didn’t feel like they could say themselves. That can be so freeing to someone who’s deep in mental health struggles.”
Don’t read that and then expect “Memory Loss”to be full of weary, weepy ballads. Litter Party weaves the theme into songs that are as flat-out fun as they are conflicted. “Big Billy Ideas” opens the record with sunny guitar strumming and call-and-response vocals. “Dead Folks” blasts along in catchy, radio-hit fashion with distortion gurgling underneath all the sugar.
“Newdaymisticabigrav” is even catchier. Jim sprinkles in some fruit-flavored marimba while Billy alternates between gentle singing and spitting out his discontent over the peppy powerpop dazzle. “I never quite get to where I want to be / I want it so bad for myself,” he shouts during the climax, his voice flitting between gritty to slimy. “I’ll be here forever,” he finally concludes.
The way Litter Party blends dour proclamations into hook-laden songs is one of their biggest strengths. The other is their knack for stuffing their sonic palette with enough melodic and rhythmic variation to keep the album’s mood in constant flux. These songs refuse to settle comfortably.
In album closer “No Change,” Jim tinkers with percussive flourishes while Billy builds tension with an underlying guitar like a wailing siren. His vocals go from deep-throated chatter to sincere harmonizing, and the song quiets and brightens, with Billy singing that “He’s still out there somewhere, smiling” as the melodies smooth over.
Then the guitar siren asserts itself again, and the song ends in a bout of anxiety, as if to say, “Did you think this could be easy?”
Recovery is a battle. “Memory Loss” doesn’t offer resolution, but the band does imply, both musically and lyrically, that hope exists, if only in spurts. The incessant strain running through the album is a comforting gesture, a way of saying, “We understand.”
Kyle Cochrun is a writer from Akron, Ohio who is currently enrolled in the NEOMFA program for creative writing.