Tummyache’s Humpday opens with “Machine”, an often raucous cry from the heart looking to wrest meaning and purpose from a world often seeming to lack both. The five songs included on this EP release embrace that as theme. Songwriter Soren Bryce, through her inter and intra personal relationships, is an artistic voice chronicling how to hang onto your emotions in the general miasma of modern life. The roughhewn musical feel of “Machine” reflects that struggle well and Bryce’s deceptively delicate vocals are more than capable of embodying the impassioned fury guitar-fueled alt-rock requires from its singers.
The EP has a wont for double-tracking Bryce’s voice, but it isn’t to the detriment of the performances. The title song exhibits this tendency but Bryce uses it at key points in the arrangement when such embellishments make sense rather than applying in slapdash fashion. The up-tempo pacing she adopts for the title cut never feels rushed and her vocals pair up well with the compositional approach to guitar. You will not hear many guitar “excursions” loaded into this release; the instrument, in her hands, is part of the overall package rather than leading the way.
“Commonplace” underlines another crucial aspect of this EP. Bryce has great gifts as a lyricist – her writing often has a stream of consciousness feel to it in the sense it chronicles reactions to her surrounding world, but there is no self-indulgence or willful obscurity marring her compositions. She broaches thorny subjects with a great deal of delicacy without ever over-explaining things for listeners – we are, inevitably, left to draw our own conclusions. The spirit of this track, both musically and lyrically, is a little moodier than the surrounding songs, but never dispiriting.
The lyrics for “Median” are, in some key ways, cut from the same cloth as the EP opener “Machine” and they share common musical DNA. No one can say with a straight face Bryce doesn’t sound credible when she decides to “rock” – the slashing blitzkrieg nature of the guitar playing running through this performance is one of Humpday’s highlights. The final track “In Between” pulls back on that sort of approach in favor of a more layered sound and the breathtaking direct address she adopts for the lyrics will disarm listeners. No other song could have ended this release. “In Between” plays as a near summation of sorts for everything preceding it.
Released by Palo Santo Records, Tummyache is the latest evolution in a professional musical career reaching back six years. Soren Bryce brings her life to her art in bracing fashion – you cannot deny her. There is a cathartic strand running through the five songs included on Humpday but her personal experience resonate with a common humanity that never makes them too private for listeners to connect with. This is quite an achievement. The release looks towards the future as well because, as you listen to these tracks, you cannot help but feel this songwriter has only just begun scratching the surface of her immense talents.