S.G. Goodman was born and raised in Kentucky, a place which burns through her voice and her words. But her music isn’t of the mountains and the wide open countryside, it’s in the grime of these places, the claustrophobia, the endless emptiness of the void. Emotional pain and destruction thrives in these darkened backwaters, quiet hope trying to find a way to appear among the rolling clouds.
Title track ‘Teeth Marks’ is intimate, delivered directly to the person who left the scars. The way she sings has an eerie quality at times, at other times she’s sounds like she’s almost laughing at herself and the absurdity of love.
The quiver in her voice, melts perfectly into the jagged guitars of ‘All My Love is Coming Back to Me’. There’s an energy here and a sense that she is in absolute control of this slight shriek.
On ‘Heart Swell’ she sings of a ‘cicada choir’ and coins the term ‘country mumble’ which is perfect. In amongst the quiet repeated refrain there’s a longing for a home, for love, that likely doesn’t exist.
‘When You Say It’ aches too with the pain of relationship, asking what is wrong with ‘these two hearts’. Broken people trying to fix each other, falling apart, such is the endless cycle of life.
The bruised heart of the album is the double devastation of ‘If You Were Someone I Loved / You Were Someone I Loved’. Telling the story of the opioid crisis she offers a lament for the lost, a stark and unsentimental howl which sounds like the souls of the dead singing.
‘The Heart of It’ is a light-hearted take on a potential relationship and how hard it is really for two people to fit together. ‘Dead Soldiers’ explores alcoholism, a slow slurring guitar building into a wail of pain.
Her own personal identity as an queer outsider allows for a unique perspective on ‘Patron Saint of the Dollar Store’. The song has a sparse, stark, sweet weirdness which is unexpectedly moving.
The album finishes with ‘Keeper of the Time’ – a song about letting go of trauma, trying to let your heart bring in light.
I’m a latecomer to this artist and album, having only caught them on the Tiny Desk concert a few weeks back. Pitchfork gave the album a rave review earlier this year and it also features in Uncut’s album of the year list for 2022. Immediately on listening to this album you can understand why she’s receiving such acclaim.
‘Teeth Marks’ strays off paths between musical genres, rejecting tradition and trends in favour of something more singular. S.G. Goodman’s image on the front of the album may be only partially coloured in, but don’t let that fool you – her music fills in the gaps to reveal a unique talent.