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Album Review: Phone Voice – “Cradle Tape”

Album Review: Phone Voice – “Cradle Tape”

Phone Voice’s first album, “Cradle Tape”—released August 6th on Strawberry Moon Records—is the type of album one might blast in the car while chain smoking, pretending to run away from life. Dreamy sighs of frustration and angsty whispers of longing, “Cradle Tape” takes listeners on an emotional journey of self discovery; it’s an album of moody lyrics sung in a versatile vocal range—heavy on the reverb and fuzzy guitar. All of the instruments, with the exception of the bass played by Aspen Koch, were performed by Chitra Subrahmanyam. That’s right! All those splashy drum rhythms, haunting melodies and noodley riffs came from the mind of one badass babe. Chatting with Subrahmanyam about this extraordinary feat, she said, “It was hard as fuck. I was my only band mate, so if I didn’t do it right, no one else was going to do it for me.” 

Subrahmanyam started recording this project on her 8-track last year. At the time, she was a night nanny for her baby nephew and became inspired by the cradle in their room. There, Subrahmanyam landed on the title “Cradle Tape”—a name encompassing multiple layers. She says, “There’s ‘cradle’ like a ‘baby cradle,’ but then there’s also ‘cradle’ as a metaphor for nascent things: infancy, and the first born; but there’s also ‘cradle’ like hold yourself close and show tenderness.” 

The album opens with the song “Middle,” giving a taste of Subrahmanyam’s softer vocals. Tugging at the what-ifs of lovers lost and growing apart, the songs “Stuck” and “DIDP (Drunk in Different Places)” bring up feelings of exes long forgotten. In “Parentheses,” the sugary sweet lyrics speak: “Distance dividing/ dissolves into nothing/ in between parentheses.” Subrahmanyam’s voice is wont to whisk one away to the middle of a dance floor, swaying alone and waiting for their crush to ask for a dance.

“If I Were” features a departure from the rest of the album’s vocal style, with subtle twangy harmonies that crescendo into a deafening proclamation, “I won’t be the disaster/ you blame for your flaws / and I’ll go on singing / long after you’re gone.” Subrahmanyam explains that she tried to sing like a “southern Joanna Newsom” to add to the tender earnest profession of love in the beginning of the song. Halfway through, a dramatic musical and lyrical shift reflect that, “sometimes people aren’t deserving of your tenderness and affection. You have to go through this rollercoaster with yourself where you catch yourself feeling things that they don’t really deserve. And then you swing back to the other end of anger and needing that love for yourself, and realizing this person is actually a piece of shit.” 

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The entirety of the album is raw, tender, sweet, vulnerable, empowering, and relatable. There are songs to dance to (“Ghost Hands”), songs to cry to (“Mother’s Milk”), and songs to sing along to (“If I Were”). “Cradle Tape” is out now on Bandcamp—keep your eyes peeled for it on Spotify and Apple Music.