Admittedly I gave Bow and Quiver an initial glancing listen, zoning out to Kylewilliam Campol’s unorthodox spoken-world presentation over jazzy sax by Jon Pagano. The recording is rough, the kind you’d find not in bedroom recordings, but in underground recording studios with walls branded by bands with Sharpies. It didn’t catch then. Months later, I decided to revisit the Providence via Tallahassee via Coral Springs via Toronto folk punk songwriter. The result? I nearly passed up one of the most brutally honest, angry yet restrained songwriters in punk. Musically, imadethismistake is one unassuming, unexpected enjoyment after another.
Approach Bow and Quiver like a book, showing wear at the corners with its spine, used yet strong. “It’s like I’ve been given a three inch blade to cut down a full grown oak, it’s not so much impossible it is unlikely I’d ever have the follow through to go on” are the front and back covers, opening “New York” and ending “The Grimmerie pt. 2: Go Ahead, Ascend.” Don’t listen to the singing, but read it, and re-read it with your ears. In the background of “New York”, Jon Pagano’s sax and Cecilia Yudin’s French horn seem distanced, the quiver to a shadowy violin set off in the corner of a dark room. It is there, it is sweet, and balances Kyle’s ascending vocal anger cumulating in, “I think it’s about time you go home.” In all honesty, it took until one song to see the genius…
“Take your sweater off, it’s not cold outside, the rain washed away all the pesticides and now we can finally eat all of our own food” starts “Rogue Island” like a welcoming given by a forthright host of the utmost realism. More philosophical manifesto than anthem, the music continues in an attempt to cajole Kyle into singing along. Barren guitar and punctuated drums and bass support, calling the resistant vocalist along until he succumbs to punk power chords and Against Me!-style singing. Unexpectedly, it falls into pop punk highlighted by a contrasting, unexpectedly uplifting Jillian McGrath and crew.
The album is an amalgam of post-punk, folk punk, and pop punk, never ending up in one nor another for too long before packing up and shipping out, reflective of the traveling nature of its songwriter. While a few tracks mimic stretches of highway without much to see, the hairpin turns and curves of the entire album lend itself an equilibrium. “Stateside” is one such trip done with such abandon it’s like racing a rickety car through a city’s downtown with luggage flying off left and right from its roof. Careening out the gate, Kyle confidently questions, “As you were falling down, did the wind begin to speak? Did it whisper in your ear, ‘You’re mine to keep?'” Shortly after the whispered question, it charges forward with chorused vocals, screams of “Stateside!” that carelessly barrels forward until dropping off the bridge entirely into nothing but harmonious, drum-enclosed “Na na!!!”s. Catchy as hell? Yes. What follows? A delicately rolling piano from George Zhen.
But the apex? “The Grimmerie, pt. 2: Go Ahead, Ascend.” It, despite being spoken to you for much of the song, is brutal and beautiful. Percussion gives into a plain acoustic as Kyle describes a “dusty, one-bedroom house where we settle for being content.” Honesty, abysmal honesty soon follows thereafter where he describes how “our happiness is like a car in the mud, tires revolving but going nowhere.” A sax and piano lulls you into a dream, imagining yourself along the journey into a shed where “our treasures and possessions” were held. Told through a phone call, Jillian echoes Kyle in his reading:
I’m sorry for the way things are working out, but our happiness is just like your ego. It’s inflated and overcompensating.
While full of introspective abysses of angst, yet buoyantly floating with islands of hope, imadethismistake closes Bow and Quiver as started. It’s an album akin to a well-used book, marked up with poignant self-reflecting anecdotes and striking, harmonious highlights amid wrenching cliffhangers. With patience, it won’t be collecting dust on your shelf.