It takes a skilled artist to transform dysphoria, loneliness, and chronic illness into catchy punk tunes you can scream along to in a sweaty basement. Chan Benicki of Porch Cat has the chops to do just that. Their music is tinged with anger and sadness, but never sounds pessimistic. For every moment of despair on their latest album, the self-titled Porch Cat, there’s a balancing moment of hope. That hope usually comes from connecting with another person. “And I know that it’s better when you’re not alone, and I know, I like my body when it’s with yours,” sings Benicki at the end of “Bummed Out.” This album is not just an airing of grievances. It’s a manual for finding joy in cruel places.

In “Reclaim,” the album’s opener, Benicki finds hope through self-empowerment in the aftermath of a toxic relationship. They encourage anyone who’s lost their sense of self to “Take the pieces you’ve found back, and reclaim.” With its buzzsaw guitars and upbeat drums, it’s an energizing pop-punk anthem. Don’t think that this album sticks to a single sound, though. There are slow-burn, grunge odes to queer loneliness like “Vampire.” There’s “Who I Am,” a spare acoustic song – which features pill bottles as percussion. There’s a garage-y anti-love-song love song, “The One You Love.”

Everything is tied together by Emily Ayden’s fiery, fuzzed out guitars. The sound recalls both classic punk and the lo-fi distortions of 90’s indie rock. These genres are traditionally dominated by straight white dudes, but on this album their rawness channels a radical, queer vulnerability. This is on full display in Porch Cat’s best track, “Bummed Out.” Benicki laments the anxieties of having a body that doesn’t look or feel quite right, “I want to look at myself and see what I am.” These are words that many trans and enby folks can connect to, conveyed with haunting lyrics. “I look at my body feel the blood in my mouth,” goes a part of the chorus. Sonically, it’s one of the most daring tracks on the album – the churning guitars are mixed with hard-hitting drum machines and glitchy samples.

Porch Cat is for anyone who’s felt isolated in their own relationships, for anyone who’s felt alienated from their own bodies. Amidst all this loneliness, Chan Benicki never loses themselves to self-loathing. “Dishes” ends the album with a hopeful image. While washing dishes, thinking of a lover, they decide to “make this body feel like home,” It’s a powerful message, especially to queer folks. If you’ve lost a home, you can make your own.

Porch Cat is playing at the Mirage Garage on January 18th. Go see them.



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