Caitlin Pasko: Greenhouse

Caitlin Pasko has described her songs as “rooms where silence and language are granted equal weight.” This rings true when experiencing the multifaceted poetry of her new album Greenhouse–and wonderfully so. Caitlin’s record, conceptually driven by the turmoil and end of an abusive relationship, quietly gathers space with delicate yet explosive emotion. Her lyrics are poetic, a stream of consciousness that moves painfully in slow motion as we witness a woman grapple with intense trauma. Predominately accompanied by piano, Caitlin’s voice is reserved, allowing her lyrics and our interpretation of them to remain the focus through each song. Caitlin is right to describe her work as equality between silence and language, with pieces like “I Know” providing a minimal lyrical outline to foster meditation on emotion. Still, other songs expose Caitlin’s mind more directly. On “Quiet Weather,” the artist somewhat angrily whispers “when I think of you I take a shovel to my chest and dig as deep as I can get.” This reflection on her former partner suggests recognition of their actions; an understanding of their presence as an infection. In contrast, Greenhouse’s first three songs feel dissociative in their personal fixation on numbness and pain rather than outwardly directed disgust or anger. This shift in experience is the cornerstone of Greenhouse, an album that pours into the listener with wrenching subtly.

When Greenhouse beings, Caitlin’s voice and delicate lyrics instantly transport us to a world of beige and confused depression. But this world isn’t created by Caitlin’s voice alone. Her piano acts as a guide, filling the space between her singing. In this way, the album as a whole is reminiscent of Björk’s “Black Lake,” a song also reflecting on the end of a relationship with singing and instrumentals that periodically take each other’s place. However, Greenhouse doesn’t completely avoid complexity and texture. “Horrible Person” reminds of Jockstrap’s fusion of electronic and acoustic–a collision of intricate production and Caitlin’s piano that provides a needed change of pace, even if more inclusion of the style throughout the album would be welcome. Arriving after the detachment of the album’s first three songs, the track also serves as the first stage of Caitlin’s awakening: “you know you are a horrible person, I shouldn’t have to explain it to you,” she sings. Shortly after, we hear the singer wondering “free, can I be?” on “To The Leaves.” We’re watching Caitlin stumble through her abuse in real-time. It’s a vivid, disturbing, and harrowing experience.

Greenhouse feels like a diary entry entrusted to us by the artist. It is both starkly raw and palely beautiful; a remarkably skilled execution of concept and a hauntingly human expression of the thoughts we don’t often share. When analyzed for potential flaws, Greenhouse is quick to remind you through Caitlin’s lyricism and abstracted song structure that it is more interested in ideas than sounds. The instrumental track “Ooo Happy” could be seen as unnecessary filler, but when considered as a part of the arc of emotion this album captures, it becomes an interlude of thought; a transition between ideas that reflects Caitlin’s progressive change of perspective. There is an undeniable intimacy to the singer’s work. It draws you in, shares its fears and hopes, and asks for reassurance. With concept glowing as its strongest asset, and Caitlin’s delicate voice, piano, and writing closely following, Greenhouse establishes the singer as an excitingly gifted artist.

Rating: 9.5/10