TRACK REVIEW: sister christine – driver’s license

Written by Jax Figarola

“driver’s license” by sister christine immerses their audience in a sonic landscape that draws inspiration from iconic shoegaze bands like quannnic, Whirr, flyingfish, and my bloody valentine. However, the song combines the elements of grunge and shoegaze, capturing the essence of dark liminal spaces through its use of distant ethereal vocals, buried drums, distorted and heavy guitar riffs, and fuzzy textures that scratch the brain. The track opens with solitary guitar riffs that echo only through the left stereo, which set the stage for a long, dragging intro that lasts for half a minute before the opening verse comes.

The murky and noisy atmosphere, achieved through the use of pedal-infused guitars and the deliberate use of distorted overlapping vocals, paradoxically instills a sense of calmness. The lyrics, nearly drowned by the loudness of the instruments, contribute to a sense of blasé sentiment towards the whole composition. However, and a big however, the emotive and distorted voice during the chorus is easily discernible, evoking emotions of hopelessness and entrapment in a dysfunctional relationship–a cycle of intoxicating pain. In short, while the established soundsphere of the instruments crafts a sense of deliriium, it is the vocals that stand out as the track’s most compelling element.

Turning attention to the song’s discovery, it’s noteworthy that TikTok played a huge role. The cylical nature of attention in the age dominated by doomscrolling and an algorithm that often steers depressed people towards depressive content, the track resonates with TikTok users seeking relatable melancholic content. In a curated display of seemingly “liminal space” images, sister christine strategically utilizes the platform to promote their song by posting repetitive TikToks in a standardized format, featuring text like “pov: you found an underrated artist to obsess over” set against images, in a slideshow, of dark, eerie liminal spaces that invoke both familiarity and discomfort.

Therefore, the intention of the artist feels like it plays a pivotal role in their success. If their intention is to seek attention, as the song suggests, then repetitive posts of the same script hoping to blow up is an impressive metaphor, similarly how Mallbangs’ “Gutter” was popularized through edits of the game Silent Hill or how Aphex Twin’s “Pulsewidth” had a resurgence in popularity due to slideshows of Y2K images.

However, attributing sister christine’s success solely to TikTok strategies would be unfair. The artist adeptly leverages TikTok culture to create an easily streamable audio, tapping into the platform’s teen shoegaze and indie fans. Despite lacking a distinctly Filipino touch, the intense and obscure sound of “driver’s license” remains an impressive addition to the shoegaze genre. This doesn’t imply a requirement for the song to be in a Philippine language; rather, it just seems somewhat foreign, resembling international shoegaze acts like sister christine’s inspirations. Wrapping up with an air of mystery, the confusing title (at least, for me) of “driver’s license” remains an elusive riddle. The title makes no sense, inviting listeners to ponder its meaning even after the music has concluded.

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