Album Review: Rat Tally – In My Car

[6131 Records; 2022]

Drawing from such coming-of-age albums as Snail Mail’s Lush, Soccer Mommy’s Clean, Phoebe Bridgers’ Stranger in the Alps, and Julien Baker’s Turn Out the Lights, Addy Harris aka Rat Tally releases In My Car, the follow-up to her 2019 debut EP When You Wake Up

Harris follows the moody-pop playbook to a tee – navigating malaises of self-doubt and venting her confusion regarding romance and relational dynamics in general. Throughout, she nails a few memorable hooks, her vocals aptly wistful and/or forlorn. Unfortunately, the set frequently occurs less as a distinct collection and more as a tribute to a handful of stellar albums forged in 2017-18, including those mentioned above, a tip of the hat to a coterie of neo-confessionalist singer-songwriters at the outset of their careers.

It’s worth noting: Snail Mail’s second LP, Valentine, is a foray into 90’s-inflected rock approaches, as is Julien Baker’s Little Oblivions. Soccer Mommy has moved consistently toward balancing self-deprecatory tones with more complex and occasionally boisterous soundscapes. Phoebe Bridgers, with 2020’s Punisher and in her collaboration with Conor Oberst (2019’s Better Oblivion Community Center), expanded on Stranger’s emo-folk stylistics, embracing a more diverse range of songwriting styles, themes, and sonics. That is: 2017-18 was a long time ago. 

In My Car’s opener, “Longshot”, shows Harris copping to circular thinking (“I went home to look at the walls / and catch my thoughts but they’re all multiplying”) and bemoaning her tendency to self-erase (“But I’m ok if you’re ok”). With “Zombies”, Harris addresses a slacker romance that has turned boring or worse, despite her persistent efforts to rekindle the connection. When she moans “I don’t want to be here at all,” we gather that she would like to end the relationship in question, though circumstances and lack of confidence make it difficult for her to do so. One can’t neglect, however, the more sweeping allusion to suicide, a palpable sense of resignation arising from a habitual state of disempowerment.

“Every day is just a bad rerun / and I’m just no fun,” Harris laments on “Phone”, spiraling into isolationism and negative thinking. “White Girls” offers some of the project’s stronger melodic transitions, Harris attempting to give herself a pep talk. Guest Jay Som contributes some well-placed back-up vocals, nudging the track in a welcome pop-rock direction. With the closer, “Looking for You”, Harris examines her penchant for sabotage: “Every time I’m getting better / why do I go looking for you?” Throughout the song, she considers how she is striving to revive a relationship that is clearly over (“Hanging on to ropes / when you already let go”). She again wants to free herself from toxic codependency but struggles to individuate. 

In this way, the project wends through bittersweet melodies, pensive vocals, and self-critical snapshots. In My Car is an appealing sequence, though it all too frequently sounds like a fan’s attempt at a throwback to those albums from half a decade ago.