Strawberry Milk Cult’s self-titled album wastes no time telling you what you’re getting into. There are songs on this album I could do without. But the ones I do love make it worth the listen. The opening indie ballad, “Toby Flenderson”, (named for the lamentable yet lovable HR rep on The Office) makes you miss the 90’s, good rom-coms, and post-punk revival rock all at once. “Mustard,” probably my favorite song on the album, follows with an infectious outro track to that same rom-com, “Toby Flenderson” made you miss. The careful vocal reverb provides a lightly haunting effect. It’s repetitive and downright catchy. But just heavy enough to prefer listening to without company.
“A Swift Kick to the Jaw” dials up the summertime feel with a surf rock jam and playful hook before giving way to the more sparse and light “Beorge Gush.” While the opening to “Beorge Gush” is painfully similar to Ben Howard’s “Conrad”, it quickly finds its own rhythm. “Out There” brings back the surf rock mood and nostalgic feel. Infectious and bright, they keep from falling into a common trap of attempting to match the general energy with vocals the singer may not be suited for. The cadence remains easy. The voice quality is almost shy. It’s the perfect combination for an album that seems to find versatility by accident.
“MF Gloom” has a generic disposition that seems best thought of as a setup to “Michael Cera,” a borderline ballad with a title that seems to encapsulate their target audience; the sound is cool even though it is supposed to be anything but. The energy of “Jaws.” is so perfectly placed that I would dare say it ties the album together. This easily could’ve been the first track on the album. Instead, it rewards dedicated listeners with a song I would want playing as the mood at my home gathering reaches its apex and everyone is the perfect amount of drunk at the same exact time. It is the perfect background noise for the best moment of laughter in the evening and has found itself on repeat in my car on my morning drive to work more times than I’d dare admit. “Portland” closes the album out warmly, letting you know exactly what you just heard and making for an easy album loop back to the beginning.
The alternating moods remain consistent. Whether this is for better or worse is up to the listener. While I enjoy a more thoughtful sequence of songs, their method alleviates the need for careful song choice by never sticking with the same mood for more than a track at a time. The lyrics are largely self-deprecating for anyone that sings along, yet it isn’t an album to sulk to. Strawberry Milk Cult was made for coffee shops, breweries, nights at home with friends and casual rooftops gatherings with a skyline view.