Review: Routine’s Shimmering & Tender EP ‘And Other Things’

Routine © Eleanor Petry
Routine © Eleanor Petry
The collaborative project of Chastity Belt’s Annie Truscott and Jay Som’s Melina Duterte, Routine brims with quiet strength on debut EP ‘And Other Things’.
Stream: ‘And Other Things’ – Routine

And Other Things is an EP written and recorded beneath the sun-drenched sky of Joshua Tree, California, over the course of a month.

Like its landscape of origin, the record isn’t loud or in your face; it’s the vague outline of a time drawn from the feeling of mere expansiveness. The debut release of the collaborative songwriting project Routine, the EP emerges distinctively out of quarantine, touching on both the qualms and the beauties as partners Annie Truscott (Chastity Belt’s bassist) and Melina Duterte (Jay Som) lend us their companionship along the way.

And Other Things - Routine - EP Art
And Other Things – Routine
Days swirl into one
Been trying to stay grounded
Doing stuff and other things
Do you ever wonder
What I am doing
What thoughts I am thinking
About you and other things
– “And Other Things,” Routine

“Cady Road” perches at the introduction of the album with a hovering aimlessness. Off the bat Truscott sings, “Walking under the desert sun” and sets the scene. A gentle, perky indie pop gem with a country twang, it’s filled with leisurely reassurances of “Relax, / It’s fine / You don’t have to know this time” and “Phone a friend or two / Tell me nothing new / And that’s okay,” while a mix of acoustic and electric guitars shimmer in the background. Living through a time in which the world has suddenly stopped revolving and days and weeks melt into each other, Routine pens the zeitgeist of our year, where forward-moving ambition or progress is replaced by everyday sameness and routine, where one walks under the desert sun “every day this week.” They tell us that it’s okay; you don’t always need to have something new to say, something new to do, some new height to achieve.

If “Cady Road” sets the mood, the where and the when, the remaining tracks populate the terrain. Relationships, emotional confrontations, and wonderment make their way in. “In Annie’s songs I hear a yearning for something just out of reach, something unachievable,” Duterte says. “Numb Enough” describes being on the receiving end of an uncaring coldness while “Calm and Collected” describes the appraisal of perhaps, a partner, as “calm and collected” and “sure and certain,” worlds away from the speaker who is, by contrast, anxious and pricked with thoughts. It’s a recurring theme: the duo will continually opine, in some sense, the desire to be just as blasé, or to simply stay “numb enough to laugh about it.” Meanwhile, tattoos, therapy, and getting high all filter in the songs, encapsulating the indie vocabulary of an age that readily give physical dimension to our emotional selves.

I’m not here to entertain you
I’m not your play doll
I’m not mad, just sad about it
Do you even care at all?
– “Numb Enough,” Routine

Instrumentally, “Numb Enough” has a hint of Duterte’s “Superbike” from her 2019 album Anak Ko. All glassy guitars and sticky vocal harmonies, it breaks into a distorted finish. As a whole, the record also plays with other unexpected elements, like the banjoele in “Cady Road,” the violin in “Song 5” and “Calm and Collected,” and the fuzzy, retro loveliness of “And Other Things.” In “Song 5,” sparse yet precisely located piano notes and refrains linger in our minds. There are no bombshell moments in the EP – just the private thoughts and moments laid bare in a pool of textures and sounds.

Routine © Eleanor Petry
Routine © Eleanor Petry

“And Other Things,” the title song of the record, is one chorus in a series of repetition. It’s “feeling good and other things,” “freaking out and other things,” and asking, “What thoughts are you thinking / about me and other things?” We tack the phrase onto the end of our speech, because we feel there’s something more, the stuff besides, surrounding, underneath what we’re trying to say, yet we are incapable of articulating exactly what those other things are. So we carve out a space filled with possibilities and uncertainty, a space in which Routine tell us to “just give it time,” as they urge us to surrender our forward-thinking preoccupation to the dictation of time itself.

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:: stream/purchase Routine here ::

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And Other Things - Routine - EP Art

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? © Eleanor Petry

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