Cross Country tends to release music in installments, adding a few songs to their discography once a year since September of 2015. Their latest, a January 2017 release titled gum / awful—after its two tracks “gum” and “awful”—feels like a natural next step for the Cincinnati-based group (even if it is labeled “technically unfinished” on Bandcamp.)
At a basic level, gum / awful doesn’t diverge much from Cross Country’s previous releases: you’ll find the same kind of weird tunes and confessional lyrics getting stuck in your head here as you did in 2016’s breakfast or 2015’s TRIALS. But while two is the fewest number of songs Cross Country has released at a time so far, these also provide more to unpack: a great pause at the minute-and-forty-second mark of “awful,” lines that give a conversational take on cliché (“she sticks like gum these days/in the back of your mind”), and a sound that has become louder and more unapologetic than ever.
Together, the two songs feel like part of a whole. Without the second break Bandcamp provides between tracks, it would be impossible to tell when “gum” ends and “awful” begins. While the closeness works in some ways, presenting a unified sound and enhancing the intimacy of the listening experience, it also makes Cross Country seem overly married to their aesthetic. The half-spoken, half-sung lyrics do their best to avoid it—“gum” is reflective and “awful” is narrative—but they can’t escape feeling a little like a first and second act. Overall, though, neither half is one you’ll want to miss.
If you’d like to hear more of Cross Country—come see them open for Argonaut & Wasp on Wednesday, April 26, in a free concert sponsored by Redhawk Radio.