Los Angeles indie rock trio Cheekface debuted their sophomore LP Emphatically No. earlier this year to rousing underground success. Cheekface is made up of Greg Katz (vocals/guitar), Amanda Tannen (vocals/bass), and Mark “Echo” Edwards (drums). The three come together to make a record that perfectly captures the awkward emotions of being an emotionally confused everyman in the apocalyptic conditions of a global pandemic.
David Berman of the Silver Jews famously said, “All my favorite singers couldn’t sing.” This sentiment reigns true for Cheekface. Taking influence from talk singers like Stephen Malkmus of Pavement and Mark E. Smith of The Fall, vocalist Greg Katz barks bored and sarcastic over catchy riffs, groovy basslines, and excellent percussion. The lyrics of this record are comedic and relatable. Every song features iconic quotables like lead single “Best Life,” where Katz ends the final verse by screaming, “I’m getting a Gucci logo stick and poke, it’s cheaper than therapy!”
The album is also a very compact listen, coming in at a tight 13 songs in 34 minutes. The only aspect the album falls short on is that Katz channels many millennial sensibilities and ideas into his lyrics, which tightens his potential audience in relatability. Examples include “The climate changed, and I left it on read” from track seven, “Original Composition.”
Opening with “Listen to Your Heart.” “No.” Cheekface immediately throws us into their mundane world. The verses detail the dull day to day, with one-liners interrupting his thoughts, representing how our anxieties interfere with our living. The chorus takes a different direction, Katz punches through and defies everything he’s told, shouting a monotone “No” to every demand he is given.
Next comes the lead single, “Best Life,” which begins with all three band members chanting “everything is normal” like a group of hypnotized cultists over a steady drumbeat. The track then kicks into high gear with an electrifying riff from Katz and a bouncing bassline from Tannen. The song also features the catchiest hook on the album. Katz yelps about being lost in monotony, he doesn’t want instructions, but he has no direction. His solution to this problem is to retreat to an outcast dog's life, being left alone and only speaking to others for water and food. The hook ends with a rather sweet sentiment that sends the track off with a cheerful note, “It’s your best life if it’s the life that you’re living right now.”
Skipping ahead to track nine, “Emotional Rent Control.” This track features Echo’s best drumming. The guitar on this track adds an excellent crunch to the mix with a clean rhythm guitar lick sounding out the verses. Katz once again channels his neurotic sensibilities to the lyrics, discussing a plethora of ways in which his mood changes on the fly and the way we all need a little more control over our emotions in life. Standout lyric: “I am eating like it’s Thanksgiving, but without the gratitude.”
The album concludes with the energetic “Don’t Get Hit By a Car.” The beat is sparse for the most part, another excellent bassline courtesy of Tannen, with a welcome cowbell and samples floating around the groove she lays down. Occasionally Katz’s guitar will enter for a “stab you in the alley riff.” It would also be criminal not to mention the mesmerizing solo that closes out the song. Lyrically the track features Katz screaming stream of consciousness nonsense in the verses with the chorus backing his realization that life is boring, and that's okay because little things make it less boring. Standout lyric: “And of course I relate to Lena Dunham, I relate to every annoying genius. Don't get hit by a car!”
In conclusion, Cheekface’s sophomore LP Emphatically No. offers a bright hope for indie rock's future in the coming decade. This group’s output should be watched closely as they can only get better from here. Overall this album is a 7.5/10 as the millennial-centric lyrics on this album could date it in the future.