Premiere: Sincere Engineer Infuse the Mundanity of Winter with Blood-Hot Drama on “Tourniquet”

Originally meant as a lamentation on cracked winter skin, “Tourniquet” plays out as a mood driven mini-drama in the skilled hands of the Chicago-based act Sincere Engineer.

A fresh hemorrhage causes the heart to pump harder. If the heart pushes enough blood through the bandage, the beats soften in an attempt to conserve the remaining blood. At the onset of “Tourniquet,” we hear Deanna Belos (Sincere Engineer) in this hypotensive state, strumming acoustic chords that cloud over her sleepless nightmare.

Tourniquet - Sincere Engineer
Tourniquet – Sincere Engineer
I can’t bear to see. I can barely breathe.
Too much or not enough. I’m walking the line between
Apathy so desperately.
It’s so hard to wake up. It’s so hard to fall asleep.

On the word “hard,” Belos’ growl seeps through the tenderness, salt in her wound. On the first listen it makes you guess at whether she will continue on acoustic for the whole song or if she will try to change things up within the remaining ninety seconds. Sincere Engineer could satisfy fans either way.

“Tourniquet” follows “Trust Me” as Sincere Engineer’s second single released on Hopeless Records. Whereas the latter pulsed from start to finish with Belos’ self-directed rage, “Tourniquet” palpitates under three distinct moods: first despair, then frustration, then acceptance. These moods play sequentially in three distinct acts in place of the standard verse-chorus-verse structure. The sequence carries Belos’ petite tragedy to a hopeful conclusion without having to provide lyrics for the last third of the song.

Sincere Engineer © 2020
Sincere Engineer © 2020

A “profusely sweet ‘n’ bloody” animated music video, courtesy of Nolan Downs, opens on Belos laying in a hospital bed. She is, of course, alone, with a sunflower on the table as the only sign of visitors. A bright major chord signals a pigeon to fly up off the ground—before smacking itself dead on the window outside Belos’ hospital room. Her thoughts and surroundings chase away sleep.

I try to close my eyes, but flashing lights are all I see.
I’m in a nightmare. You’re in my daydream.
It’s always something.
I can feel you in today’s breeze.
I can feel your ghost sleeping next to me.

But don’t read so deeply into the nightmare. “This song is about when it gets cold out and the skin on my hands cracks really bad,” says Belos. “But I peppered in some DRAMA.” This playful layer beneath Belos’s brand of punk-via-emo-via-folk opens her songs so that they radiate her hubris as much as her catharsis. “I also employed one of my favorite phrases ever, ‘it’s always something’—I think it says so much without saying anything at all.”

Sincere Engineer © Hovland
Sincere Engineer © Hovland

When a pair of ghost hands tuck the animated Belos in for sleep, a second major chord kicks the song up. The sun shines, her hospital bed empties, and Belos finds herself strolling down the street.

And it’s winter again and there’s cracks in my skin.
Nothing stops the bleeding. You turn your cheek.
A tourniquet, you turn and leave.

Blood drains from all over her body and falls in long trails under her feet.

And it’s winter again and the scars on my limbs,
Nothing stops the bleeding. You turn your cheek.
A tourniquet, you turn and leave.

The camera follows the blood as it flows down to into a sewer, where the video morphs from the figurative to the conceptual. The blistering punk beat becomes a pulsing lub-dub instrumental matched in the video by an animated, healthy heart suspended in mid-air. The heart sprouts veins that grow a healthy, smiling Deanna Belos from the inside out. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen the bleeding-heart trope brought full circle.

Sincere Engineer Bring Honesty to Pop Punk on “Trust Me”


In a previous article for Atwood, I pointed out the pliability of Belos’ sound, a thing that becomes doubly apparent when you hear “Tourniquet.” A two-minute run time usually signals a fast burner or an album interlude; Belos could have easily lengthened the song with additional verses or a longer instrumental. Instead, we get a short and sweet dose to tide us over until Sincere Engineer release more new music.

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Stream: “Tourniquet” – Sincere Engineer

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Tourniquet - Sincere Engineer

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