On the intro song, “Roller,” the project’s lead vocalist, songwriter and main member, Jake Denning, questions changes in his life while a tender guitar riff fades in and out. Responding with indifference, Denning’s voice echoes back onto itself with the vacant phrase “well okay, well alright,” as the instrumentation kindles the project’s gentle, slacker rock sound.
Denning has multiple meanings for the title, as he feels there is “a malaise to the way the album flow[s], as it’s “generally pretty mid tempo,” yet he also said it took a long time for him to make, “maybe even too long.” He referred to its origins in late 2020, and how he moved around a couple times during its development.
A dreamlike short-story-tune, “Daisy Vs The Grim Reaper,” was one of the first completed. It starts glum with the line, “Well, I heard the Grim Reaper was calling my name but my dog barked at ‘em and she scared ‘em away.” Denning thanks the pup sweetly, singing “Good job Daisy, you’re braver than me,” while collaborator Sarah Spina chimes in on the situation as well. Warbling, “rubberband[-like]” synths nest inside the tune, while ambling guitar twangs paw ahead. As the song ends, we’re left thinking about healthy companionship with an angel of a dog, rather than the initial run-in with death’s messageman.
The singer’s glazy, soft spoken vocals are on full display in “Keeper.” Questioning his value, Denning’s soothing delivery flutters over a light mix of indie acoustics and plush synthetics.
“Dream” is a patient two-part piece. The first of which is sweet alt-country, or as Denning said, “y’allternative,” with an enfeebling message. In one of the project’s most personal moments, bugcatcher sings, “I could see you waking up next to me the day I die, that’s right,” before a floaty, sepia-filter string melody furthers the fall-to-pieces-at-any-moment mood. A sustained, yawning tone transitions the song to its second half, a panoramic ambient-folk piece. Listeners may see themselves in bugcatcher, as Denning has a personal moment while reveling in the world’s natural late-night beauties.
The subtle synth-folk follow up, “Kings Highway,” is a specific story passed down from Denning’s father. Two brothers embark on a winding nighttime drive through a hilly, forested road in Rochester without any streetlights.
“On Kings Highway, you turned beside me.
Said watch this, and turned the headlights off in total darkness
Thought I would surely die under that moonlight,
Swear you were doing like 95”
Although the story is not his own, Denning always thought it was a “beautiful little moment.”
Sewing the conclusive patchwork in Slacker’s quilt of short vignettes, “Little Patterns” puts a microscope over the little things that feel big in the moment. These difference-makers include: “a high school first day crush,” “a morning walk,” “a garden or a field,” and the adorable “snails that take their time.” Denning said, “That’s real, by the way,” describing a route of fifty-some snails migrating down the sidewalk one summer. “It’s one of the great, craziest phenomena I’ve ever witnessed in my life.” A honeyed riff floats around the quiet neighborhood scenery, while Denning longs for an innocent love without any hard goodbyes.
Progressing from the depressive, “Roller,” to the optimistic “Little Patterns,” Slacker’s alleviating tunes refresh the memories and the mind. Take a well-deserved breather from the hustle and bustle and slow down for a moment with Slacker.
Be on the lookout for another bugcatcher release set for the tail end of this summer, as well as an upcoming one from Free Casino, a post-punk, math rock band that Denning sings and plays guitar in as well.