Littlefoot: Symbol of Love Review
Symbol of Love, the new LP from local songstress Littlefoot, is a work that refuses to be pinned down. A record put out by a local label (Soothing Almond Collective and national/internationally by Modern Radio) but funded at least partially by a Kickstarter campaign, it is by all accounts a “synth” record that doesn’t feel tied down by any genre or style. The 10 songs on the record are lush, delicate creatures that gently display the unassuming songwriting skills of Elizabeth McDowell, who uses the Littlefoot moniker to deliver her saccharine pop ditties.
The overarching theme of the record is the brittle beauty of the songs, a sublime mixture of lo-fi aesthetic and thematic, orchestrated pop music laid on a bed of synths. McDowell’s vocals are often used as a layer on the sound collage, focusing less on the words and more on the texture of the song. There are moments where this comes across in an extremely heavy manor, as with the dark, haunted “The Hallow.” The track, like others, has a ambiance that feels like it was created in an abandoned church, with only the ghosts and the lush, rolling shadows left to fill the musty air. The simple drum machine patterns feel like a faint heartbeat as McDowell pleads and cajoles on tracks like the demented “Divine Cum,” but the record never feels like it an exercise in weird-for-weirdness sake. The songs have the melodies and texture to stand on their own, but they don’t take any unnecessary shortcuts that can often creep in when an artist is looking more for a hit or a label deal than being artistically genuine. The highlight of the record is the battered, darkly hypnotic “Il Mio Dolore E’un Assassino,” which would give Cat Power a run in a “shadowy and haunting yet somehow redeeming” songwriting contest.
Whether it was by choice or by necessity, the whole product has a lo-fi feel. The record sleeve has a homemade feel to it, and the songs seem more bedroom recordings than Italians Do It Better, but no matter the package it is presented in, the final product is a commanding and powerful document. Making a “synth” album without falling into the normal traps that a “synth album” can entail, Symbol of Love is a testament to making the best of the situation. With bit torrent sites talking about hiding servers in planes and in the ocean, artists are unfortunately going to have to get creative with getting compensation for their craft. Between the flexible sound and the self financing portions of getting this album together, McDowell has proven there are ways other than the tired “hope a label signs us” method that still, for some reason, holds sway with a lot of artists and music folk. Whether or not Symbol of Love ends up being deemed a “success,” it is a really good album that would have been much less likely to have been made (much less on vinyl), without the flexibility of and talent of McDowell, who has proven with this LP to be an exciting new force in the local scene.