Last September, the world waved goodbye to Doe, a brilliant indie band whose carefully constructed songs often smouldered with intensity rather than burning themselves out. But for anyone still missing the band, there’s good news, as Doe’s former drummer Jake Popyura has gone it alone with a new album from his solo recording project Supermilk, and it will definitely scratch your itch.
Death is the Best Thing for you Now is the debut album from Supermilk and finds Jake absolutely in his element. It’s a fantastic work of playful post punk and indie rock that features all the same careful construction, layered vocals, and intricately plotted riffs you might have expected from Doe. But where that was clearly a band, with disparate influences at play, this is very much Jake left to his own devices; able to indulge himself more than ever before – understandable given that he wrote, performed, and produced the whole thing himself.
He names influences like Omni, Jay Som, and Speedy Ortiz – which you can definitely hear – but there’s also a big helping of Devo, Pinkerton-era Weezer, and I’m certain I won’t be the only person to hear My Sharona in the album’s second track ‘Cannibal’ – though he may not appreciate the comparison.
Album opener ‘The Favourite’ kicks things off with a stuttering rhythm that will feel very familiar to Doe fans, but quickly introduces a keening synth that distinguishes this record as its own thing. Lead single ‘Bullheaded Boy’ is Supermilk firing on all cylinders, and probably best articulates what this project is all about. It has a wandering, off-kilter lead guitar riff that the whole track builds itself around, a jaunty, deceptively simple rhythm, and gorgeous layered vocals throughout – particularly when Jake sings the title lyric.
Agony Anne turns the temperature down a little, stripping everything back to a palm-muted guitar and a lone vocal, before piling more and more layers on top as it builds toward a superb climax. This has the transcendent effect of helping the main refrain – a totally irresistible “Agony Anne, you’re so simple,” that will be dancing around your head for weeks – seem like it’s coming further into view each time it’s repeated.
It’s a varied listen too, journeying through a range of textures, while keeping a firm grip on its fuzz rock template. ‘Natural’ is a raucous post punk rocker that could easily be a cut from the new Omni record, while third single ‘Light’ finds the album at its most jaunty – bouncing with a give and take rhythm and a terrific synth line that helps the whole thing feel effortlessly breezy. There are interesting sounds at play throughout too – ‘Thelma’ might be the only time I’ve heard the sound of a modem trying to join the dial-up internet used in a song, and ‘Gut Check’ features the best use of harmonics since Modest Mouse’s ‘Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine’.
Death is the Best Thing for You Now finds Jake not exactly doing things differently from what he used to do with Doe, but rather using what learned about building songs, adding layers to his recordings when they’ll have the greatest effect, and letting his hooks shine. It’s a terrific record, and a remarkable solo achievement – elegantly made, playful but taught, and littered with memorable hooks.
Even though it’s a solo project, Jake’s put a band together for live shows featuring former Doe guitarist Dean Smithers and Sophie MacKenzie from Cheerbleederz. It’s a shame gigs are off the table for the time being, as you get the feeling that seeing these songs played live will give them a bit more space to breathe, but that’s something to look forward to in the future. For the time being, Supermilk’s debut album is a wonderful way to pass the time.