Grace Cooper's music has always sounded eerie. As the lead singer of The Sandwitches, she sang echoey rockabilly-folk songs designed for empty barrooms in long-abandoned ghost towns, reanimating dead genre conventions and parading them around for fun. And her solo work as Grace Sings Sludge has sounded even creepier, four albums of home-recorded noir ballads and far-away melodies that never quite seem to settle down.
Her fifth album as Grace Sings Sludge — Christ Mocked and the End of a Relationship, premiering below ahead of a July 17 release via Empty Cellar Records — is her most willfully disquieting yet. Recorded for the first time in a full studio, Cooper can't fall back on lo-fi ambience to unsettle the listener, so her melodies dive deeper into melancholy, her brief jaunts into atonality more carefully deployed. From her reckoning with God on opener "Christ Fucking Mocked" through the spoken-word horror story of "Hackers" and the desolate nihilism of "It Can Wait," this is a murky record that refuses to flinch from its own bleak outlook.
"This record covers a lot of hard ground," Cooper wrote in an email to The FADER. "I put a lot of stuff in there. Stuff from my subconscious even got in. Death and drinking. Nightmares of being relegated to near-invisibility. Feeling hopeless only able to scratch the surface of personal stories of early teenage and adolescent sexual mortification. My own fucking mortality. But I tried to do it in a colorful, storytelling, way. A way that at least I can still find humor in."
"I imagined Jesus Christ as a sort of similarly-misunderstood-feeling drinking buddy," she continued. "Harboring some regrets and a little resentment. When he's not, he's a surrogate for an aloof lover. This record is not a break-up album (which is maybe perhaps somewhat unclear from the title). The End of a Relationship just refers to change. I started writing it after the death of my friend and bandmate. You want to pray when you're mourning but get stuck in this awful place of having to consider a place like Hell and limbo. There’s been so much surreal loss since, and so much insane religious bullshit in this country that I’m just glad I made music that is heavy but still warm and very heartfelt."
Listen to Christ Mocked and the End of a Relationship in full below, and pre-order the album here.