yours are the only ears – knock hard

– featured image courtesy of alyssa yohana –

“album of the fortnight” is a bi-weekly feature that digs into a recent release of note. the articles will run roughly during the middle and at the end of each month, always on a friday; the album or body of work in question will have been released at some point during that two-week span.  this column focuses on art that resonates deeply, on pieces that necessitate more than just a knee-jerk reaction.  next up: yours are the only ears.

even after susannah cutler began sharing her music publicly in 2014, its dissemination was incredibly measured: a track here, an extended play there, each release a quick glimpse inside a setting so intimate it’s nearly indescribable.  with knock hard, her first full-length release as yours are the only earscutler has finally allowed full immersion into the innermost depths of her private world.

the album’s nine tracks contain a standard palette so sparing that each foreign element introduced carries weight of seismic proportions; the aqueous synth pads on “to be alone” whisk the track away on a solitary voyage to sea, while the melancholic slide motif at the tail end of “seeds” seems to add a second wistful character to the conversation.  the sparseness is a necessity – best not to bury one’s soul being bared in the mix – and comes in handy for a project so centered around the second person, light finger-picking progressing softly in the background as cutler confides in hushed tones.

yatoe knock hard.jpg

despite its enduring sonic warmth and inherently bucolic tendencies, knock hard grapples with the darker questions of existence and belonging, from opening number “saturn” through to its finale, “low.”  there’s a quiet existential crisis housed in the early standout “fire in my eyes,” cutler’s voice embodying the album’s fragility as it cracks over the repeated inquiry “am i a good person?,” while the gritty “enter me” ruminates on the effects of abrupt abandonment, observing that “comfort makes a funny face / when it goes away.”

clocking in at just under thirty minutes, knock hard is a tidy bundle of understated folk songs, acoustic guitars supplemented by well-placed synth countermelodies and barebones percussion.  songs frequently eschew identifiable refrains, cutler instead favoring streams of consciousness that may be tied together by a common vocal melody or a simple but potent mantra.  it’s this choice that gives knock hard its gravity, a versatile strategy that allows cutler to either chart a linear course towards reckoning or to disappear into the contours of a specific emotion or situation.

an album at least four years in the making, the debut from yours are the only ears is essential listening, the strength of its whispered intimacy becoming more apparent each time the needle contacts the wax.  knock hard is out now via team love records.  listen in full below.

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