Album Review: fanclubwallet – You Have Got To Be Kidding Me

[AWAL; 2022]

For Hannah Judge to sound like she’s in her own world makes sense. Her breakthrough 2021 EP, Hurt Is Boring, as fanclubwallet was made across 10 months whilst she was confined to her childhood bedroom, suffering from a Crohn’s disease flare-up. Left to her own devices, she unravelled her doomed relationship amongst other topics. Beginning to produce content during lockdown (notably with a timely and rather lovely take on Talking Heads’ “This Must be The Place”), her output has been consistently solid since she appeared with her own moniker, all making her debut album, You Have Got To Be Kidding Me, modestly tantalising. 

While Judge might sound like she’s very much still in her head on her debut album, she notably sounds like she’s taken steps out into the world too. Recorded and written with childhood friend Michael Watson in a remote studio in Ontario, the album boasts glowing moments of full band momentum and energy. “Gr8 Timing!” exudes a fizzy downtrodden vim with its thick bass and spritzy guitar licks while the snappy mix of live percussion and drum tracks on “Trying To Be Nice” bring a refreshing colour to the picture. Judge sounds surrounded by friends and at the best moments on the album it brings her directly to the foreground.

Despite the clearer focus on Judge in the centre of it all, she’s still reckoning with doubts and worries. “I think I spend a lot of time trying to be like the cool, chill, calm girl,” says Judge, “this album’s kind of me being like, maybe I’m not cool, calm, and collected.” On aforementioned “Trying To Be Nice” she’s struggling with her identity and self-worth (“I’m not trying to be nice / ‘Cause when I am I hate the sound of my own voice / I don’t think we should hangout / I think I hate myself a little more than you right now”) whereas on the compact “Jar” she’s reckoning with post-relationship responsibility. 

Judge’s lyrical focus often leans to the downtrodden side, and she has a few despondent lyrical barbs that often hit hard without you fully realising at first (“I hope the people that always surround you / drown you in love like you drowned me too”; “I deserve to be with someone that hurts me / So I’ll just spend all of my time with myself”). She might not mine deep, favouring familiar hurts like lies and heartbreak, but her wry and poker-faced delivery never leaves you feeling like anything isn’t real and lived through.

In terms of style, Judge teeters on lines between slacker rock and 90s-indebted indie. At times it glows with a fresh-faced sunniness: the little record scratches against the watery acoustic guitar on “Toast” feel light-hearted; the pinkish synths wrapping up the anxiety of “That I Won’t Do” leave a warm radiance in its trail; and the small, instrumental interlude “55” feels like a dream swirled from her bedroom, feverish like a soundtrack to a welcome memory Judge plays out in her head to make herself feel better. It might be a nostalgic sound for some listeners, but moments here feel like discovery for Judge, like she’s tinkering away with music after finding old CDs in her parent’s house. 

You Have Got To Be Kidding Me doesn’t break any new ground, but there’s a certain lilt about Judge and her music that nestles nicely in your head. While all of the tracks here might not leave a lasting impression as the best moments do, wrapped up together as a whole they allow you to peer into Judge’s own little world. She’s worried, full of doubt, and (with a tongue in cheek smirk) she equally might not be being entirely serious regarding absolutely everything she sings about. It’s all part of the charm. Maybe she’s not cool, calm, and collected, but on a likeable debut as this, who needs to be?