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5 songs you need to hear from D.C.'s Beauty Pill
By
Melody Lau

Published

June 20, 2016

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As part of case/lang/veirs’ homepage takeover, we asked each artist if they wanted to shine the spotlight on any other bands or artists. Neko Case wanted us to focus on “how cool and smart Beauty Pill in D.C. are.” While the band was unavailable to speak at the time (leader Chad Clark has fallen ill recently, and Beauty Pill has had to cancel a number of shows in the U.S.), we forged ahead on five essential songs from the band.

Beauty Pill only has two full-length albums (and two EPs) to its name, but the Washington, D.C., band, led by Chad Clark, has been together for 15 years. While the early 2000s proved to be a productive time for Beauty Pill (three of the group's four releases came out between 2001 and 2004), there was an 11-year gap between its debut release, The Unsustainable Lifestyle, and last year’s long-awaited sophomore album, Beauty Pill Describes Things as They Are.

In that time, Clark underwent open-heart surgery for a rare heart condition, which slowed him down but ultimately didn’t stop him from completing another fantastic collection of songs with collaborators and bandmates Jean Cook, Basia Andolsun, Drew Doucette, Abram Goodrich and Devin Ocampo. The band has continued to morph and evolve its sound from one release to the next, borrowing its foundations from '90s-influenced indie-rock (the band's original label was famed independent punk label Dischord Records) but building on that with sonic influences from all over the world and experimenting with electronic sounds in addition to guitars.

Below, we've picked out the essentials that are required listening for new and old fans alike. Hit play on the best Beauty Pill songs below.


1. 'Ann the Word'

Beauty Pill found success on MySpace in 2005 with this track. The six-plus-minute track marked a sonic change for the band, from its indie-rock roots to a more experimental, electronic sound that embraced samples and more varied influences. In an interview with the Washington City Paper, Clark responded to the supportive fan reaction to this song: "'Ann the Word’ has changed my life.” A decade later, the track would find a home on the record Beauty Pill Describes Things as They Are.

2. 'Such Large Portions!'

Although Beauty Pill’s music never neatly fit into the category of indie-rock, a song such as “Such Large Portions!,” off of The Unsustainable Lifestyle, makes a case for Clark as one of the genre’s most overlooked icons. The song toggles between a loud storm of distorted riffs and a more subdued space, marked by a rhythmic backdrop where vocalist Rachel Burke’s voice takes centre stage.

Listen to "Such Large Portions!" here.

3. 'The Cigarette Girl from the Future'

One of Beauty Pill’s most compelling aspects is the trade-off of vocal duties between Clark and female vocalists. On “The Cigarette Girl from the Future,” from the band’s debut EP of the same name, Clark and Joanne Gholl go back and forth painting a dispassionate image of the future over dizzying instrumentals.

4. 'Idiot Heart'

We are ushered in with the hopeful sounds of a lush harp but are quickly dragged back down to reality with a stomping beat and guitar riff as Gholl devastatingly tells you, “The devil won’t greenlight your project,” and the killer line, “The bad news is there is no hope/ the good news is there never was.”

5. 'Afrikaner Barista'

A song that illustrates a conversation between Clark and white Afrikaner coffee shop owner, Beauty Pill is best when it creates vivid imagery that's not afraid to parse politics. In this case, Clark touches on history and apartheid, but is determined to forge ahead, singing, "Origin is not destination/ we gotta move on somehow."


More from the case/lang/veirs takeover:

Life Lessons: Neko Case, Laura Veirs and k.d. lang

First Play: case/lang/veirs, self-titled, plus track-by-track guide

Judee Sill: the woman behind case/lang/veirs’ beautifully sad new song

Rerun: watch k.d. lang play Jam or Not a Jam