Written by Michelle Ritter, Photo by Niamh Barry
Dublin, Ireland’s own, Sprints, certainly leave no desire for high-energy beats and passionate guitar riffs with the release of their debut album Letter to Self - but they also provide a lyrical deep-dive journey into a question most of us have probably thought about at one point or another.
Prior to this release on January 4, the garage-punk four-piece, comprised of lead singer/guitarist Karla Chubb, guitarist Colm O’Reilly, bass guitarist Sam McCann, and Jack Callan on drums, have released multiple singles and two EPs, Manifesto (2021) and A Modern Job (2022). Both of these releases feature driving drum beats, a punchy guitar presence, and assertive, passive-aggressive vocals; all of which are descriptions into which Letter to Self fits perfectly.
Opening the album with a steady, heart-beat-esque drum beat that gradually increases tempo, ’Ticking’ introduces the question that serves as the explorative theme for this entire album: “Am I alive?” Following this solid introduction into the themes and sounds of this album, “Heavy” features repetitive lyrics that paint a picture of being stuck in place, watching the world continue around you, while the song “Can’t Get Enough of It” further describes this living condition as a “nightmare.” Quite a few songs throughout the album voice ideas of people-pleasing tendencies, including “Cathedral,” “Adore Adore Adore,” and “Up and Comer.” There is not a single song in the album that is irrelevant to the question introduced at the beginning of this forty-minute expedition and finally answered in the title track “Letter to Self.” The song ultimately deviates from the lyrical themes of self-doubt and mental illness featured in all of the prior tracks, proclaiming “but I am alive” and exploring the idea that “any night can become day.” Letter to Self is truly a lyrical crusade depicting the fight against internalized mental struggles, made simpler to understand and conceptualize through repetitive lyrics.
Musically, all of the tracks on this album have a relatively unified sound. The overall tempo is fast, with lots of guitar and drum presence, accentuated by the vast amount of instrumental portions. Chubb’s vocals are both melodic and tough, made courser by the introduction of backup vocals in the rougher sections. This auditory uniformity is excellent for isolating the entirety of this album as one jaunting reflection inside oneself. Individual choices made in each instrumental track, such as the consistent drumbeat in “Ticking” illustrating a rapidly beating heart, or the sudden pause in “A Wreck (A Mess)” after the lyrics “Can you please stop the pace?” underscore the individual meaning contained in each track. Having more differentiation in the sound of each track could have easily taken away from the overall message Sprints was attempting, and succeeding, to relay. In this way, uniformity is a vital part of this album.
From the album cover, which depicts a chaotically blurred, screaming individual in red lighting, to the compositional track choices, to the simplistic yet deep lyrics, Letter to Self provides a turbulent journey into one’s mind while also providing a danceable sound. With this indubiously thoroughly written and planned out debut album, Sprints leave room to wonder what intense trip they will take their audience on next.