EP: Lipstk – Solidarity

Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, four-piece indie rock group Lipstk (pronounced “Lip-stick”) has released a lovely new EP titled “Solidarity” that I’ll be reviewing today.

In this five-song collection, Alec Cox has found an excellent sweet spot between lyrical depth and musical beauty. Citing their influences as Big Thief, Elliot Smith, and boygenius, it’s obvious that there is a deep intentionality behind every lyric in these songs. Building on these influences, this EP will hit you in the feels pretty quickly and not let you go until the last song is finished.

Starting right off the bat, +one is an evocative opening track that begins with a soothing guitar melody and ethereal vocals that layer perfectly together alongside a smooth drum groove. This song tells the story of fragility, loss, and reflection. Written after the abrupt passing of a friend to mental illness, this is a reflection of how they had met while recovering from the same struggle, and the similarities between their journeys. “I wish I was more like you // hanging around in the clouds all day” he writes in the chorus, as the lead guitar soars above with dream-like arpeggios. With tight drum fills in between, we’re taken on a gorgeous musical journey through beautiful solos and breakdown sections.

The second song, Six More Miles, describes a fictional heartbreak that pulls from the band’s own experiences. Inspired by the classic Romeo and Juliet. A bit slower at the start, this was originally intended to be a country western but after watching a documentary on Hank Williams and sitting down with the guitar, it took an entirely different turn. This song has more of a push and pull between slower sections and moments where the full band steps in. While a bit scaled back from the first track, it features the same surreal soundscape and layered composition that plays with rhythm and timing as the song goes on. The album continues with the theme of making meaning of loss and change. I felt soothed as the song finished. Lipstk described the writing as “quite the cathartic process”.

The album continues with Foxhole, a warm ballad-like composition that opens with a blend of gentle rhythm guitar punctuated by bell-like lead guitar. This is the song that I noticed the bass guitar the most so far, with a lingering hum that provides a foundation for the other elements to shine. When the chorus hits, the vocal harmonies take center stage while the instrumentals create a cozy warmth. “I wrote this down / as a reminder / there’s so much not yet done” Alec sings and reminds me of how our reflections simultaneously process the past and make space for the present.

The fourth song and title track, Solidarity, similarly starts with shimmering guitars and breathy vocals. This song was written after a romantic partner moved across the country, prompting a bittersweet reflection on life and love. There’s both pride and compassion as well as longing and sadness mixed in this song. “I was so afraid before but now / it’s so transparent” tells the story of someone who has gained perspective from their loss. This song brings together everything that the band has introduced up to this point, with high-flying solos, throbbing bass, and a range of rhythmic playing that neatly balances each section. I particularly liked how the song opened up around the four-minute mark, with a percussive shift that opens up the sound a bit and a neat back-and-forth between the guitars. “I hope you found what you’re looking for” the lyrics wistfully sing as the song builds to a climax, and I reflect on my heartbreaks that have both made me a wiser person but also had me missing someone’s presence in my life.

The EP wraps up with Deja Vu, a gorgeous song with some of the prettiest and boldest sounds on the record. In Lipstk’s music, you can hear the intended themes just as much in the instrumentals as with the vocals, and this song is no exception. This song features haunting melodies on the guitars, pinch harmonics, and sweeping melodies accompanying the reflective vocals. The song is a mix of acoustic guitar breaks with soft, gentle melodies– but suddenly the distortion kicks in and the vocals turn to a roar as all the elements come together.

This release is a treat for both the ears and the heart– with an honest and profound reflection on how loss shapes our perspective and leaves us feeling changed by the process. Soaring, shimmering guitar work is balanced by tightly written bass and drum lines, all highlighting Alec’s earnest vocals. There is so much intentionality behind this music, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend checking it out.

Written by Jason Toby