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Coming Down from Come Down
Pretty Sick’s 2021 release Come Down works to bridge the gap between 90’s era grunge and the current alternative music scene.
By Eliana Simpson
Let me start by saying this- I think Sabrina Fuentes is a little bit of a genius. Come Down, released by Pretty Sick in 2021, is one of the most beautiful and innovative examples of a 90s-inspired EP that I have ever encountered. The vibe morphs constantly throughout its eight songs and despite the occasional, abrupt genre switch, I was embarrassingly into it from beginning to end. Pretty Sick samples from groups such as Hole, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Pixies, and The Breeders to create this nostalgic blend. In the process, they just happen to check every box on the requirements for my fall 2023 playlist: distracting, numbing, and empowering. Just prepare yourself for the inevitable side effect of badassness.
Ever since their first release dropped in 2017, their sound has grown and morphed. Lead singer and bassist, Sabrina Fuentes, founded the band when she was just 13 in New York City with Eva Kaufman and Ella Moore. The band now consists of Fuentes, along with Wade Oates (former guitarist for The Virgins), Orazio Argentero on bass, and Austin Williamson (drummer ofOnyx Collective). Oates and Williamson are not the only members with experience in the industry. Fuentes has discussed her previous jobs in modeling for many popular brands, including Stussy and Calvin Klein during her childhood and adolescence. From her interviews, it’s clear she brings a little bit of that New York, ‘downtown girl’ feel to everything she writes. In Come Down, this manifests itself in the grit that emanates from the tension in their music and lyrics. The EP’s title first appeared as the title of the opening song of their 2020 EP Deep Divine. It foreshadows the following track “Allen Street” with a Deftones-style guitar riff resembling that of “She”, the third track on Come Down. The songs revolve around the painful position of yearning for someone and different struggles within relationships.
The album starts off with the band’s most popular song, “Dumb”. I was hit hard with intense beats and an immediate reveal of Pretty Sick’s musical influences. This can also be heard in the vocals on “Bet My Blood”, where her voice undeniably mirrors Courtney Love’s. Backed by an eerie guitar riff over a thick layer of distortion, even her phrasing is reminiscent of Love’s songwriting. To top it off, Fuentes showcases her personal flair when she warps her voice into a quiver. “Bet My Blood” wraps up after one minute and four seconds of prime head-banging material, during which Fuentes manipulates her screams in a rhythmic sequence, joining the heavy, psychedelic-grunge jam that is already in progress.
“She” is an objectively notable track. Again, I quickly heard the band’s inspiration in the effects and timbre of the guitar. The best word to describe this song is unsettling. Fuentes highlights her style by strongly shaking her vocals in every other line, leaving you disturbed, yet totally captivated. The lyrics only add to the chilling tone with lines like “She wants to be, my anything, my everything” and “Can you keep a secret are you ready to die”. The aggressive nature of the drumming in the bridge alone makes this song a must-listen.
After listening to the EP an alarming amount of times, “Bare” is probably the biggest standout for me. I’m not sure if it’s the track’s similarity to The Kinks that I find comfort in, or the fact that the entire piece is carried by Fuentes’s bass, but it just sounds satisfying. The absence of percussion pairs with a two-part harmony to complete the elegant simplicity of the song.
The EP is wrapped up with a fan favorite, “Physical”. Its popularity is curious, because of the sudden disappearance within 90’s-based instrumental methods. This song also stands out amongst their discography due to additional post-production effects. Overall, its sound is just completely different. Pretty Sick’s ability to conquer multiple genres demonstrates true musicianship and ambition. And we witness their exploration into contemporary electronica with this track.
It is clear how elements from Come Down have transferred to their 2022 album, Makes Me Sick Makes Me Smile. This is heard in songs like “Drunk”, “Heaven”, “Bound”, and especially “Human Condition” where she throws Courtney Barnett into the mix of influences. It seems though, that they have abandoned, or at least taken a break from the heavily distorted and muddled lens they previously wrote their music through. I prefer the harder music in their repertoire. With the soothingly repetitive writing style that Pretty Sick uses, I think their songs thrive on unique sound manipulation and unexpected approaches to modern grunge.
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