Gecko | Climbing Frame | (Independent)
4 out of 5 Stars
Gecko is a peculiar duck. Out of London, the indie-pop musician swings a mallet of strange turns of phrase ─ upending expectations and leaving you both gleeful and melancholic. On his second album, Climbing Frame, he waddles through themes of youthful reckoning, rose-cheeked optimism, and the terrible weight of aging. His voice feathers over his words, often deceptively chipper to mask deeper pain, and true power emerges from slow reveals, calculated twists of lyrical knobs that strike when you least expect it.
“I can’t know all the songs / Not a jukebox, I’m a man / There’s a heart, not a selection of songs under my surface,” he sputters over gummy percussion embedded in “Can’t Know All the Songs.” As he chides his audience for requesting songs during his live sets, he does so with a wink and a squeak of his voice. He’s totally serious but playfully stern in the same breath. “Breathe” clatters along with a similar rhythmic tilt, owed largely to his ability to not only keep time with the drum kit but plant firmly as the guiding needle.
That’s what makes his music operate so well: his vocal radiates with sharp, vibrant colors. Whether he intends to or not, his expedition through life’s many transitions ─ beginning with “Making It Through” (a jam band snippet from his 13-year-old self) and culminating with the crushing “Soaring” (in which an elderly gentleman mourns his last days in a nursing home) and “Climbing Frame,” a hopeful prayer for a better future ─ detonates with bubbly hues before wearing back down to drab barebones of human existence. Even his dog song, “Laika,” dedicated to Russian canine named Laika, who was sent on a space mission in the 1950s, never to return, emits a woeful and frigid air.
Gecko’s songwriting sparkles in cosmic starbursts, casting words and musings across a dark, low-hanging canvas. The universe has never felt so scary and endless and suffocating all the same. “I don’t know where I’m going half the time,” he considers on the stimulating piano ballad “All I Know.” His heart pounds through his chest, spilling out onto paper, and all he can do is be the conduit through which he comes closer to understanding what it means to be alive. The world is far harsher than anyone was ever willing to admit ─ and now, he stands as an emblem of confronting harrowing realities and making sure future generations have it better.