Multi-instrumentalist and ULowell alum Tiffany Sammy, performing under the name TIFFY, ends her debut EP Fire Sale with a song cleverly titled “Song in A(lways disappointed).” Outside of references to that song title, however, disappointing and its derivatives, are words best banished from the listeners’ lexicon when dissecting what is an eclectic musical roller coaster.
In fact, most adjectives altogether seem ill suited to label this ambitious genre exploration. So, in place of those adjectives, imagine listening to the sounds of a party held by a downstairs neighbor. The party has the full lineup of the Pixies, Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, as well as modern stars like Grouplove and Car Seat Headrest. They’re all singing and a few people are hammering out melodies on keyboards, guitars, and punching rhythms into an old drum machine.
That’s what Fire Sale sounds like. It’s all over the place. It’s confusing. It’s a rock solid record.
Clocking in at just under twenty minutes, Fire Sale opens with “LA Fade,” a song structured around washey guitar and evoking a solid late 80s soft punk feel — at least until it cuts abruptly into a bridge of clean guitar riffs layers of ambient instrumental humming and a resulting lo-fi mood.
From there, Sammy leaves the following track, “90s Teen Movie,” as a minimalist showcase of what are arguably her strongest lyrics on the record. Discussing the plight of a protagonist who feels unable to hate an abusive partner through the metaphor of 90s teen movie cliches, Sammy calls out lines like “I’ll get the cartoon montage to tell me what’s going on.” She, in kind, does so over a simple call and response between a catchy guitar riff and a booming drum pattern on an electronic kit.
Building out of such instrumental simplicity, Sammy jumps next to her title track, which feels somewhat like a dance beat driven song. Boasting a prominent synthesizer progression, the arrangement on that track swells around the aforementioned dance beat into a frenetic conclusion full of sounds that bounce between the left and right audio channels and overall rapid changes in the song’s volume. If the album as a whole is a party heard through the floorboards, this song is a brief excursion into the mosh pit itself, and an illustration of what it would sound like if all those partygoers danced and scream sang in circles around the listener themselves.
“Fire Sale” could very easily be a perfect closing track for this EP. But, ultimately, Sammy transitions out of that energetic soundscape and keeps chugging along, crafting her last two tracks as a juxtaposition of her most straightforward rock song in “Handfull,” and the classic drum machine and synthesizer sounds of “Song in A(lways disappointed)” respectively.
The weird ones of the 90s and early 2000s had no Woodstock-esque cultural climax. Yet their music continues to rattle around in the brains of millions of millennials, melding, in the minds of some, into something beautifully new. In a sense, those millions of busy minds are millions of individual Woodstock celebrations, or at least raucous parties bumping bass through the cracks in the upstairs neighbors’ floor.
On Fire Sale, Tiffany Sammy has invited the world to press their ears to those cracks in the floor, and hear the music from the musical party inside her head. We’re glad she did.
~ Dakota Antelman