Human Kitten – “y tywysog bach”

Grade: B+

Key Tracks: “Wearing Cologne Alone” “Defend Top Bunk”

It was just a few months ago that Human Kitten, aka folk-punk singer-songwriter Elijah Llinas, released “Manic Pixie Dream Boy,” and there’s already another release, equally filled with quick tracks on activism, illness and gender confusion. The songs vary more in tone, some angry, some retrospective, some self-deprecating. As always, it’s just Llinas and a guitar, quietly baring their souls to whomever’s listening.

Llinas has always been a lyrically-heavy singer, and “y tywysog bach” comes out of the gate with a number of personal and poetic tracks. Particularly self-deprecating second track “I’m Trash” sees Llinas declaring “Fuck my pain away / Until I melt into the trash compactor.” On the semi-anti-technology “Activists Are Active,” Llinas sings, “We think we’re so civilized / But we’re the same as the people living in 1655.” There are more tracks on the struggles of gender identification, like on the excellent “Sex: Male, Gender: Whatever.” And on “Defend Top Bunk,” “My songs are getting less political by the word.” Llinas’ personality comes through the lyrics, as it always does, but it feels like we’re getting a few broader aspects of it this time around. “Defend Top Bunk” is not a political song, but a song about becoming less political. Human Kitten’s lyrics are often direct, without sacrificing poetry, and on this album they occasionally aim for the gut (although whether it’s yours or Llinas’ gut isn’t clear).

Although Llinas still embodies a singer-songwriter, as a singular person with an acoustic guitar, the songwriting is a little different on this album. The songs themselves are a little more direct, less guitar flourishes and rhythms, grounded even further on the themes and lyrics. But on top of that, there’s also a three-part song, taking up tracks 8-10. “Shame,” “Forgiveness,” and “Redemption” are typically cynical and reflective, but it’s interesting to see Llinas take a different approach to the structures than usual.

Human Kitten is basically an embodiment of folk-punk; Llinas plays fast and acoustic music solo, with some specific, personal and occasionally discomforting lyrics. “y tywysog bach” is another album where Llinas opens up about deep issues that might not be as easy to talk about – as well as some forays into politics and problem people. And since it’s similar to the past releases, it’s a strong album. Llinas isn’t playing to a wide audience, rather providing a voice for people who can listen and relate; people who might have the same issues but haven’t been able to vocalize them. Most good folk-punk is like that, and Human Kitten is no different.

The album is out today and is available at the Human Kitten bandcamp page.

-By Andrew McNally

Human Kitten – “Manic Pixie Dream Boy”

(Photo Credit: bandcamp)

Grade: A-

Key Tracks: “San Diego” “Gender Bronoun”

Elijah Llinas’, aka singer-songwriter Human Kitten, second full-length album deals with struggling with cultural, societal and gender identities and the hushed lines between opposites. Llinas operates like Paul Baribeau – just a person with a guitar, using it more as a weapon to bring the lyrics home than as a lead instrument (although it’s not as almost abysmally basic as Baribeau’s playing). “Manic Pixie Dream Boy” is an honest look inside someone struggling to figure out exactly who they are.

Llinas has a voice fit for folk-punk, clear and strong, while still honest and raw. The vocals accurately reflect the varying emotions in the lyrics and add a very honest element to the music. And for one person with a guitar, Llinas has a firm grasp on songwriting. Whether lyrically or musically, the thirteen tracks on the album can differentiate themselves from each other. They all fit together, but Llinas employs tonal and volume shifts to keep it interesting. “San Diego” starts the album off on a reflective note, where “Share What Ya Got” ends on a guitar-heavy climax.

As mentioned, this album is lyric-focused. Llinas channels frustration with punk culture, and stresses with gender identity and acceptance. On opener “San Diego,” Llinas sings, “What have punks really done for the world?,” where later confessing to being a part of punk culture. And Llinas sings about gender on “Nature v. Nurture,” singing, “I told my doctor today that I am not a man / I am not a woman / Hell I don’t know what I am.” Later, on “Gender Bronoun,” “I’m caught between two separate identities and I can’t even decide on which one’s me.” Llinas’ poetry is more than honest, it’s a direct outburst. The songs are an inward portrayal at questioning one’s gender (and also, I just want to say, it’s 2014 and we still haven’t created a societal safe space for people questioning their gender. It’s very real and very prevalent). Llinas’ deeply poetic lyrics extend to depression, too, as on “I Still Don’t Want to Be Sad,” where Llinas sings, “I am sad most of the time but you can’t see it ’cause I keep it inside.” It’s heavy, deep, and relatable in one sentence, as folk-punk often is.

“Manic Pixie Dream Boy” is a proper folk-punk work; it’s acoustic but often fast, and lyrically devastating at almost every turn. Llinas is conflicted, and that’s something that maybe shouldn’t be analyzed and graded in a review, but it comes through in an honest and affecting way. The album looks at some societal standards in a confounding light and questions some fundamentals. But first and foremost, it’s an honest and inward release, one that’s, at times, all too easy to relate to. Folk-punk is often meant to disturb in some way, and Llinas takes the emotional route with a thought-provoking look into identity crises.

The album is available for purchase and streaming here.

If you like this, try: Paul Baribeau’s “Grand Ledge,” another completely solo and poetically affecting folk-punk release. (And I know I criticized Baribeau earlier but I truly love “Grand Ledge”)

-By Andrew McNally