Gordi's 'Our Two Skins' Shows the Powerful Intensity of Soft, Gentle Songwriting
Published Jun 25, 2020Our Two Skins, the second full-length album by Australian singer-songwriter Sophie Payten (under her stage name Gordi), opens with the sound of a door opening, the singer entering the room and settling down, letting out a quiet sigh before she begins sharing her thoughts and feelings. The following collection of songs offers a snapshot of a specific time in Gordi's life, transforming a complex web of emotions into lilting, gentle music that traces her introspections about love, family, loss and sexuality.
These decidedly minimalist songs, produced by Gordi and collaborators Chris Messina and Zach Hanson, were largely recorded in an isolated cottage in Canowindra, the tiny town that her family has lived in for decades. This familiar location provided a safe place for Gordi to reckon with her grief over losing her grandmother and the anxiety and uncertainty surrounding the Australian government's forthcoming decision about legalization of LGBTQ2S+ marriage. The longing and affection in her voice as she sings about her partner is equally inflected by the distance between them at the time of recording and a sense of political indignation and resistance to homophobia throughout the country.
"Aeroplane Bathroom," the quietly intense album opener, is built upon plaintive piano and subtle percussive clanging created by recording the unique sounds of various objects found around the cottage (including the sound of Gordi's car starting). She states: "I'm unwilling to allow you thinking less of me," affirming the fact that soft and gentle music can have a strong, decisive point of view. In "Hate the World," she utilizes political language ("nationality," "flag," "liberties") to evoke how her personal experience of coming out has been impacted by her nation's indecision on LGBTQ2S+ marriage rights. She plainly states: "I will persevere until it hurts / Give myself up all just to be heard," and most powerfully, "You have my resistance."
Alongside (and intertwined with) this defiance are beautiful and heartfelt declarations of love. "Sandwiches" is an ode to her grandmother, an uptempo folk-rock song that paints a vivid portrait of her deep love for a woman who always supported and understood her. The chorus perfectly captures the jarring feeling of emptiness after losing a loved one: "You'd be on the phone / Every time we'd get home / And I think I thought you'd be there." Gordi displays vulnerability and emotional honesty as she sings about sorting through memories, cashmere sweaters, and bottles of hairspray, unsure of how to make sense of such a significant loss. Beyond familial love, in "Limits," another uptempo folk-rock tune infused with sweetness, she shares her electrifying experience of falling in love, imploring her partner to "Come stand in my kitchen / Come on and sleep in my bed / 'Cause I wanna give you familiar / So you can find your way 'round in my head."
The album's greatest strength is Gordi's ability to render intimate details into poetic, evocative lyrics. Our Two Skins brings the singer's personal experiences to the forefront, and at times the music seemingly takes a backseat, quietly carrying her declarations to fruition. Traces of previous collaborators and tourmates such as Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Troye Sivan and S. Carey can be found in these songs, along with the bright folk-pop energy of Maggie Rogers, yet Gordi stands out from her peers on the strength of her direct, melancholic voice and honest lyricism. (Jagjaguwar)