WRITTEN BY: Will Kirkpatrick
Philadelphia-based slowcore band 22° Halo returns with their sophomore album, Garden Bed, released on October 29th, 2021. 22° Halo expands on their self-titled debut album, but Garden Bed does leave the ear a bit fatigued (and not in a good way) by the end of the album’s 34-minute runtime.
While there still is a sad, cold core to be felt when listening to Garden Bed, the album feels like a stubble ray of sun compared to their debut. The subject Will Kennedy sings about seems to have brought him out of a slump.
These feelings are reflected in the composition of the music. The sizzler on the cymbals gives the record a backdrop of white noise that blends into the hazy atmosphere 22° Halo creates. The amp hums make the record feel intimate and conjure up imagery of sitting in your room alone playing guitar, pouring your heart out to your stuffed animals and posters.
Kennedy’s soft and tender vocal delivery makes the lyrics and emotions feel raw. But at times, the vocals get lost in the instruments and whether this was by choice or because of improper mixing is something left to the listener. Thematically, having lines get lost in the mix makes sense. Kennedy’s feelings are complex and confusing, and doubt clouds the good happening around him.
Track 2, “Scarecrows,” is amazing. The guitar riff is addicting and the vocal melody during the line “no discovery… on the porch again” is killer. This is a moshable song and the energy of this live would be electric.
“Scarecrow” melts into the next two tracks “Storm” and “Wranglers in Blue.” “Wranglers in Blue” features a great extended jam with a fuzzy guitar that makes a beautiful soundscape to get lost in. The chorus has some great lines such as, “power lines like macrame,” and, “matching pairs of wranglers in blue.” Kennedy’s whole world is this person, enough to match pants with his partner.
The second half of this record does reach a slight slump. The tried-and-true sound gets a bit dull, but bringing in Kate Schneider gives a good contrast to the first half. Schneider’s vocal features provide a sweet glaze to these tracks. Maybe she is singing from the perspective of Kennedy’s partner.
The closer of the album, “Dinner at Davey’s,” brings you right back to attention. The drumbeat chugs, and the snare hits on the off beats give a nice little jump to the track. Similar to “Scarecrow,” hearing this live would be a treat and screaming out “It’s dinner at Davey’s, gold through the cracks of the fence. No more darkness at daytime, dewdrops on the window mesh,” with a crowd of dickies-clad people would be awesome.
Without listening close, this record may feel like another lay in bed and cry all day album, but 22° Halo is over-joyous on Garden Bed. While this may make a heartbroken listener cry, these songs should take you to the times when you’re with someone who completes you—someone you just can’t take your eyes off of.
22° Halo is trending upwards; they took the sounds of their self-titled record and fleshed them out. You can feel the potential of them to create a masterpiece in the future. The lyrics are charming, and the instrumentals —as much as this has already been hammered in— are hazy and gloomy. They are a hidden gem, no doubt, and Garden Bed is a must-listen for anyone remotely interested in slowcore, shoegazey, Duster-like music. Check out their Bandcamp to support them more directly.