Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Ringfinger; Decimal

Written by Jesse Sposato
For years, lyrics from Tracy Wilson's old band, Dahlia Seed, have resonated in my head—in particular, "We played Star Wars/I let you be my hero," from "Milk," a song off their LP Valentine Kid's Litter. The intro graced my best friend's answering machine in high school, and for all I can remember, Dahlia Seed was one of the only bands I actually liked from all the hardcore shows I attended while growing up on Long Island. The band's hard but melodic instrumentation, mixed with Tracy's sweet and fiery vocals, was both captivating and energizing—the kind of music you'd listen to when you didn't know what to do with all your teenage angst.

For years, lyrics from Tracy Wilson's old band, Dahlia Seed, have resonated in my head—in particular, "We played Star Wars/I let you be my hero," from "Milk," a song off their LP Valentine Kid's Litter. The intro graced my best friend's answering machine in high school, and for all I can remember, Dahlia Seed was one of the only bands I actually liked from all the hardcore shows I attended while growing up on Long Island. The band's hard but melodic instrumentation, mixed with Tracy's sweet and fiery vocals, was both captivating and energizing—the kind of music you'd listen to when you didn't know what to do with all your teenage angst.

So, it was quite a treat when I discovered Wilson's new project, Ringfinger, and their recent release, Decimal. After reading the lengthy bio in the record's press release, which explained Wilson's stretch of heartache and trauma, it seemed clear that Decimal had been the record that saved her life. Let's face it—anything that has this kind of weight riding on it is scary. How can you place judgment on another person's pain? But what if the therapeutic process of making a record to save yourself doesn't translate? I guess, in the end, I came out feeling a little bit of both, that it did and didn't transpose.

A few listens later, as the record started to sink in, a tinge of "excited" ran through me as Wilson belted out, "What am I doing, missing a stranger?" Catchy melodies like this continue to decorate the record along with secretly trippy (it's actually no secret, I think I just wasn't quite expecting it) sounds and depressing undertones. It's clear this is the same Tracy from the Dahlia Seed days, only she's swapped a bit of her badass edginess for a sadder, wimpier model. Her voice is still lovely—you can certainly tell—but her whispery, cat-like cries left me a bit nostalgic for some of that strong, independent bite that made me idolize her in the first place.

The record definitely has its ups and downs. And sometimes, I'm sorry to say, she just gets it all wrong, like on "Landing Strip," where she moans, "You are a spoon/I am a mouth, so feed me." This brings to mind the image of that creepy plant from Little Shop of Horrors, which pretty much speaks for itself. "Waving Good-Bye," another weak track on the album, is like riding around in a haunted house while listening to Tracy command, "It's that time; it's that time to speak about the roses." But the thing is, is it ever really that time? (Hint: no.)

Ironically, it's on "(I) Miss Me," a slow and trippy number, as well as the only track in which her ex Barry London appears, that Tracy whines, "I stopped believing in myself." Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but that sucks.

On that note, there were also songs I really liked. Stephen Brodsky became a new favorite with his catchy, quirky "Pin Me Down," the only song not sung by Tracy and also featuring his brother on drums in their debut performance as a duo. His sing-songy, rhymey melodies brightened up the whole record, despite their lyrical downer-ness, "She tries to pin me down just like a hand me down/She tried to pin me down, but I came undone by design." The slinky "aahs" and sighs in the background give it an old-timey quality I can never resist. He also guest stars on "Death Star," echoing the signature poppy sweetness found on PMD.

On "Four Misused Letters," Cam DiNunzio's soothing voice joins Tracy's breathy vocals, and together they sing you to sleep with their lullaby sounds. What they're singing about (the title gives it away) sounds like true heartbreak, but with the two of them together by your side, you can be sure you'll sleep like a baby and dream of lambs and tea parties no matter what they're saying. And it was the titillating sound of "Elegant Excuse" where I imagined a choir swaying from side to side, stomping their feet and clapping their hands to the background "oohs," the click-clacking of the drums, and the tweaking sound of guitar while it crawled alongside the vocals, building up like a cliffhanger in a novel and bursting out into the fierce sound of tinny magic.

Overall, there was something very familiar about this record, in a trip-hop, ambient, mellow-electronic, Black Box Recorder meets Tracy and the Plastics (and occasionally bumps into Bjork) kind of way. Sometimes it gives you the feeling that you should be listening to this all alone in a dark attic with only candlelight. But maybe this romantic bleakness is part of the charm, eh?

 

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