Syrhea Conaway contains multitudes. Her one-woman shows as Syna So Pro make that plain, as she constructs the foundation, framework and artful edifice of a pop song in real time with the help of traditional rock & roll instruments, a few loop pedals and impeccable harmony. Her studio albums can't rely on such showmanship, so they not only give proof of her instrumental prowess -- she handles everything but the drums, which come care of Corey Woodruff -- but also her stylistic shifts between T. Rex-ian pomp and ethereal dream-pop.
This video of Syna So Pro performing for Lo-Fi St. Louis does well do display her impressive live-looping technique.
Released exactly a year after Loop Talk Vol. 1 (subtitled "The Power of One; The Power of You"), Vol. 2: Two Riffs and Some Heartbreak wastes little time in deploying its titular riffs. Last year's album was a showcase for Conaway's octave-spanning, carefully layered vocals, which shone particularly on a pair of Chinese folk songs. The follow-up is, at first blush, a fuzzy, buzzy affair, more in keeping with Conaway's past as a bassist in shoegaze outfit Stella Mora while still leaving an aperture for her clarion vocals.
Here, stacked, circular guitar and bass lines, slathered with tasteful distortion and sub-octave fuzz, snake around one another. Opening track "Ride" starts the album with a blast that ebbs and flows, while the funky "Kiss Me on the Lips" masks its sensuality behind Conaway's purposefully dry performance of the verses.
If those riffs give some grit to the album's earlier tracks, the LP's second half lets the songs stretch out and bloom outside of a more rigid rock & roll framework. The romantic neurosis of "I Want You Back" is clever enough -- it's a song about a phone call that sounds like the vocals are transmitted through a crummy cell-phone speaker -- but the subtle pulses and phases of the synth pads and drum beats creates a push-and-pull reminiscent of some of St. Vincent's recent work. "Worry Doll" rides on Woodruff's restrained shuffle, with some woozy instrumentation -- eBow guitar, Mellotron strings, violin double-stops -- giving a gauzy backdrop for Conaway's most spare, emotional performance. It's a relatively Spartan arrangement that shows how Conaway can do a lot with a little, which is refreshing because we're used to seeing her do a lot with a lot.
Penultimate track "The Last One" begins in a choir of wordless syllables that swarm around Conaway's lead vocals (and her beatbox percussion). "This is the last one for me," she sings. "I gotta move on." Whether she's singing to an old lover or herself is unclear, but coming near the end of her record, Conaway sings like someone stuck between saying goodbye to something old and creating something new.
Stream the new album in full below:
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