Pill’s debut album, Convenience (Mexican Summer), is a grab-you-by-the-throat look at authenticity: what it means, why fighting for it is important, and how difficult it can be not to just get numb and disappear. With her vocals way up front in the mix, Veronica Torres uses repetition like a jazz singer or a poet to drill down to a deeper truth while simultaneously showing words’ meanings aren’t fixed, but rather change moment to moment. On “My Rights,” the hook of “My life, my rights, might I? Talk over!” makes the first three phrases sound almost identical. You can’t separate someone’s living from their self-determination and the boundaries of their freedom. The disruption of the line with an exhortation to “talk over” is thrilling because it’s a call to arms while still politely proffering that what we grow up being told not to do is exactly what we need to do to live. Torres’ bass riff is the wave on which everything else—the spy theme guitar of Jonathan Campolo, the boogie drums of Andrew Spaulding, and Ben Jaffee’s saxophone accents— rides here. Jaffee’s sax rises behind Torres’ repeating of “Foreign body, turn me on,” on “Vagabond,” then slips into a riff that bores into the listener’s skull. Without discrediting the guitar and drums throughout, the interplay of her vocals and his instrument is the key to this record.
In many ways, love and sex are the arenas in which we learn the vagaries and limits of language first: learning to ask for what we want and what we like and what we need in coded language. Convenience explores that better than any record in recent memory. On “Love and Other Liquids,” Torres desperately breathes the line, “Chaos is swallowing your love,” while Jaffee’s sax bubbles with inky blue loneliness. “Fetish Queen,” a swinging cut calibrated for the dance floor, reveals Torres yelping, “Picture me in your favorite tee,” before she asks “How could I love anybody? How could I have someone else?” as dry snare and smacking hi-hat combine with guitar fireworks. The everything-at-once “100% Cute” has instruments spinning out of orbit in an expansive, ecstatic starburst as the singer bites off lines like, “My flesh smells best with you on top of me.”
Convenience shows Torres understands self-reliance and the need to keep your guard up. On the moody “Dead Boys,” Pill uses space between the drums and guitar to reinforce lines like, “There is no ally in this void,” and “I’m a girl’s girl.” “Speaking Up,” tells a distressingly familiar story in just over two minutes, opening with “You’re gonna get fired for speaking up,” the first half of the sentence repeated over and over before getting to that ending. Everywhere, this record rocks and swings as hard as the moment demands, and needing to say something is the engine that drives this debut LP and makes it burn. Each track feels distilled down to its essence, with the artful juxtaposition of elements and the rough edges deliberately left having more light and blood in them than any plainer confessional record could hope to capture.