EP Review: no stars – Ripping off the Tags

Despite its gentle indie music, Athens musician no stars‘ debut EP, Ripping off the Tags, is strong, both sonically and lyrically. Out July 5, the six tracks range in tempo from subdued to bouncy, but several musical constants – gorgeous harmonies, lo-fi guitar strumming and consistent drum beats – maintain a sense of beauty throughout.

Art by Courtney Klebau.

Ripping off the Tags opens with “Blank,” a serene guitar track with strong, smooth vocals and dynamic swells in the harmonies of the chorus. It’s a truly pretty song that’s dripping with heartbreak, and it sets the stage well for the rest of the EP, which features the same classic lo-fi indie themes: steady drum beats and softly-strumming, jewel-toned guitar chords.

Those powerful vocals are a standout factor on the EP. Vocalist and musician Emma Schultz croons about love and loss, and her voice is pure, ringing clearly whether it’s alone or accompanied by a harmony. It’s difficult to characterize it with any other word than gorgeous; the simplicity and beauty of both Schultz’s vocals and the music as a whole are entirely disarming.

Though the EP’s sound is light, however, there is a boldness to its lyrical content as Schultz sings; according to Schultz, this trope stems from a desire for self-acceptance.

“The concept behind Ripping off the Tags came from the paralysis I often feel at the thought of making decisions about things I care about, because I’m afraid of it not turning out perfectly,” said Schultz in an email. “The act of ripping tags off of clothes or something else you’ve bought symbolizes, to me, just going with what you have and owning it, regardless of whether or not it’s perfect.”

“Potentiality” is a standout on the EP; though only two minutes, it sets up the track with low guitar strumming and sweet vocals with a touch of dissonant vocal harmony. About thirty seconds from the end, the song bursts into a massively fuzzy section as Schultz croons through distortion about existing unabashedly (“Don’t call me a woman, you don’t know what I am/I could be anything”). It’s a stunning effect, and it is one that well-illustrates the boldness behind both the EP’s concept and title.

Photo by Emily Barbus.

Prior to the release of Ripping off the Tags, no stars’ only release was a one-track demo, a stripped-down version of the song “Never at All,” which appears on this EP, and it is just as beautiful as its full iteration. Regardless, Ripping off the Tags is a stunning debut. Listen and purchase it via no stars’ Bandcamp below.

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