Sob Sister is the glorious sonic development of California based Singer and Songwriter, Caden Gray.
His second album, 'How I Do My Hair Now,' Sob Sister prides itself on being an emotional alt-rock-pop-folk epic told in two acts. Caden Gray uses the superficial element of hair as a metaphor for growth, change, age, and expression as he examines the patterns of adulthood he is entering into.
We can hear Caden Gray showcasing his skills through multiple instruments as well as his extensive vocal arrangements throughout this fifteen track sonic experience that is epic in scope. The diverse creation of this album comes four years after the release of his first album, Pansy, and displays a more polished and shiny version of Sob Sister’s theatrical bedroom-rock sound.
We start 'How I Do My Hair Now,' with the title track and lead single from the album, “Freeway’s End/How I Do My Hair Now.” This record happens to be songs one and two fused together. Gracing us with the artistic versatility in a harmonious introductory as we hear the acapella radiance of Caden Gray’s vocals. We are enthralled by the tantalizing resonance that grasps on to us like an auditory hug.
The larger than life array of melodies delivered to us before the deep embrace of acoustic guitar strums cascade with the reverberations with ease. This record was launched by Hedwig and the Angry Inch’s, John Cameron Mitchell on Rain and Summer Phoenix’s podcast LaunchLeft, and serves as the thesis of the album.
“Shooting Hoops,” conveys the deep essence of sorrow across a somber progression of the instrumentation that allows us to descend into the atmosphere as we take in the storyline. Reminiscing on a series of false promises, weak moments, and fallen memories we hear this piece laced with delicate concords emitting poise as the vocalization floats upon the composition. Caden Gray offers the delicacy of artistic creation as he serves us the goods on a silver platter dressed in pure emotion.
Next on the roster, we have the enticing creation of the record “Man Weekend.” This piece clocks in at under two minutes but delivers enough passion to last a lifetime. The cosmic quintessence of the memorable chorus that rings upon your head top long after the record is over presents a spatial atmosphere that you can fluently drift away to. Lyrics such as, “They’re taking over soon, I can feel it in the wind. They’ve always been in charge but now we’re through,” propel chills down your spine as you attempt to place yourself in the headspace that Caden Gray created during his composition.
“Alison, Possessed,” carries an up-tempo ambiance as the tight drum patterns have you feeling the ultimate grooves conveyed. We are immersed in the suave and divine vocals from Caden Gray and his colossal harmonic range fitted in bliss. The electric components add a certain edge and punch that picks up the pace of this masterpiece as we listen to a story about Alison and the dark side she faces as the world can be ever so cruel as the judge from the outside. In the end, she is burning inside.
The political piano ballad we have come to, “Assistant to the President,” is the sixth song on “How I Do My Hair Now.” This narrative reflects the uncertainty of living in a world ruled by an unfeeling, plastic elite. A striking assortment of keys is played embellishing the arrangement that drips in a passion-fueled performance. Dancing upon your mind, you feel an exhilarating rush take over your being as you capture the captivating principle of this record.
“I’ll Believe This One,” addresses the defeat that Caden Gray can feel living in an icy world that tends to reign down with misfortunes and burdens. It is hard not to gravitate towards the magnetic pull that is brought from a self-produced record of this caliber. As each song offers up a diverse flair from Caden Gray, we are plunged into a pool of overflowing sentiment as we hear the saccharine sounds of, “I’ve got crystals for eyes, you said that you’re done. I’ve heard every lie but I’ll believe this one.”
Coming in eighth on the tracklist, we have “Puddle.” Establishing a pensive tone with relaxed instrumentation. Caden Gray depicts an image of another human puddling around him. Sure enough, we begin to melt as we hear the intricately scripted lyrics conveyed. As we plummet into the depth of our emotions, Caden Gray swiftly takes us by surprise as the pulse obtains an up-tempo rhythm quipped with gentle whistles and we are led to the final words of the song; “These gateway colors surrounding.”
As we enter Act II, we are given a taste of “A Fall.” This specific track takes us back down to a level-headed approach as Caden Gray shines a light on the subtle ukulele strums that although gentle, could in fact power a room in this piece. Placed under the spotlight, we have yet another talent from the elite artist. Through his words tracing around finding the faith in faded dreams and his reasoning for not saying goodbye, Caden Gray wins us over with the retrospective lens he offers us to look through peering into his journey of life.
“Bangs on Fire” captures the warm moment in which a spark is recognized to have been struck between two people. Having us linger upon those moments, a minimalistic introduction of heartfelt chords being performed allow us to zone in on what Caden Gray is speaking into existence. The triumphant drum explosion that creates an immense flash, allows us to anticipate the faster tempo of the vibrating ambiance that is discharged into our speakers. Pair that with the power Caden Gray holds in his tonal distinction and we have a recipe for desire.
“Face Odyssey,” strikes us with melancholy as we apply our attention to the subdued notes that Caden Gray tells in this tale. The unpretentious instrumentation allows the somber vocalization of this chapter to remain a centerpiece as we can hear the sentimental sensation ooze from Caden Gray’s soul. Dominating with the abstract presentation of his lyrics, words such as “Tried my whole life to find the end of me then I could sit back and sigh. No more crying,” showcase the factual core of the meaning within.
“Fear of Blondes,” carries forth a majestic ambiance as we instantly feel transported to an atmosphere where fairytales come true. Floating on the perfect image of describing the staples of an independent, blonde goddess who carries herself well, we can paint a comprehensive picture on the blank canvas in our mind with the intangible details that Caden Gray so smoothly delivers to us. Frolicking in and out of musical cues with the utter talent displayed, we truly see how this album is a sonic voyage through the mind of Sob Sister.
The thirteenth record that can be found on “How I Do My Hair Now,” is the electric ambiance of “Batting Cage.” Weighing in on two sides of the scale, we hear this more Rock forward track touching on yet another side of the emotion-filled angst that Caden Gray portrays. “Missing someone I don’t even know,” is the stand out lyric as we immediately relate to the feeling of drifting apart from someone we once knew so well. Caught up in the mystery question of how did you not see this happening before your eyes? We begin to feel nostalgic as we recollect our thoughts from this mind-blowing correlation.
Second last on the tracklist, we have “Comedian’s Son.” The desolate ambiance that pulls you into Sob Sister wrapping up his second album takes you on a journey through his mind as the enticing instrumentation has you riding the waves of this composition and story at hand. Fueled by power crying and awful lighting, the imagery between the lyrics gravitates towards the dusky side of being in the spotlight and having all eyes on you. Sometimes the only thing you can do is glare back.
The album ends with the direct and unwavering “Oh, Brother,” in which Caden Gray confidently claims his space as an individual on this Earth, while still recognizing that regardless of the effort put into gaining awareness and moving forward, bad habits and apathy can relentlessly return to test us. Diving into the final piece, the soft scale of the vision actually hits you heavy as it forces you to look back on the voyage that Sob Sister just provided. Fifteen tracks later, a medley of emotion and the gentle sound of rain leaving us in our thoughts, we have concluded the expedition that Sob Sister has hit out of the park with 'How I Do My Hair Now.'
How does this body of work compare to the first album that you released? What are some similarities and differences in the creative process?
Thank you! This is a way more expansive album than my first record Pansy. There are more songs, more people involved- it’s a lot more epic in scope. The first album I did mostly by myself and recorded in my final semester of college in Boston. This record took about five years to make from the writing of the first song to the release. I was able to sit with these songs for a lot longer, playing them live a million times before actually recording them which I believe made them a lot stronger. I wanted this album to be shinier and more polished, and also heavily focused on collaboration. I produced the album with two other people, Shiraz Dhume and Joseph Freeman from the band River Gods, and had more instrumentalists playing on it. This new album has all the melancholy drama of the first one, but I think you can hear a more confident and fully realized version of the Sob Sister sound, which I would describe as theatrical-mopey-bedroom-rock-pop.
You have a hefty amount of accomplishments under your belt! One is attending Berklee College of Music for songwriting. How has that helped your songwriting abilities?
I learned a lot of extensive and valuable music theory at Berklee that I’ve been able to apply to my songwriting. I had a great mentor at Berklee named Erin Barra who really pushed me as a songwriter, and more specifically as a songwriter who produces their own work. I learned and was inspired a lot by her. Going to school for any art form is a nice challenge because you’re forced to create when you don’t always feel like it, which is an important thing to learn how to push through.
Out of the fifteen tracks, if you could pick a favorite song on the album, which would it be and why?
That is such a Sophie’s Choice question, but I’ll try! I really am fond of the title track, it’s very special to me and serves as a sort of thesis to the album, but I also really love Oh, Brother and Assistant to the President. Can’t pick one.
The introduction of the album is actually songs one and two fused together. What was your reasoning for taking that approach?
I view this record as a two-act piece (Act I ends with “Puddle”, Act II begins with “A Fall”), the album begins with “Freeway’s End”, an acapella piece that serves as the overture to the album. It’s sort of a welcome-to-my-world moment; it gets you into the drama of it all. Similar to theater pieces, I wanted the overture to launch directly into and be connected with the big production number that is “How I Do My Hair Now”. “Freeway’s End” gets you in the melodramatic mood and then we go full force into the meat of things.
What would you like your listeners to take away from “How I Do My Hair Now,” in terms of themes and messages?
That’s up to them! From my perspective, this album is all about becoming aware of the patterns present in your life, the ones that manifest and appear as you get older. The final lyric of the album is “I’m a foggy mirror and I wipe it away yet it still comes back again.” Things tend to come back around in different ways and it’s up to you as a person to recognize that and either continue down the same path or break the cycle and change. I think I’d want a listener to relate in some way but most of all enjoy what they’re hearing. I wanted to take the superficial element of hair and use it as a metaphor for growth, expression, maturity, a passage of time...I hope whoever takes the time to listen can get into the melodrama of it all and enjoy it.