Portland, Maine area native Genevieve Stokes’ debut release “Swimming Lessons” is a delicate expression of youth and nostalgia. At only 19 years old, Stokes started her songwriting career in her high school years by recording lofi tracks and uploading over 50 of them to SoundCloud which then eventually caught the attention of her current management team. Besides “Swimming Lessons” reflecting not just the evolution of her songwriting journey and advancement in production, it also shows a poignant coming of age snapshot of formative memories and emotions in Stokes’ life.
Lyrically, Stokes captures a lot of emotion and essence of her youth in imagery of her hometown memories on “Swimming Lessons”. Recorded in a cabin not far from her childhood home, this secluded location in a picturesque part of the country definitely influences the intimate, cozy mood of this release’s sound. Tracks like the opener “Portland Nights” as well as “Parking Lot” are great examples of capturing memories in locations that feel significant to Stokes and sharing these emotions tied to them. Songs like “Lonely and Bored” and “Simple Love” show mature reflections of remorse, longing, and intimacy that are portrayed in an impressively delicate way for her debut project. These two songs in particular feel greatly authentic in their themes of adolescent restlessness – the kind of longing and dreaming amongst suburban isolation that many listeners can identify with.
Stokes’ history in music started young with her attachment to the piano, and the eventual formative introduction to her inspirations in Cat Power and Regina Spektor. This introduction to some monumental figures in early 2000’s indie set the tone for her sonic inspirations and direction towards the smooth, sleek side indie rock we see on this release. This EP’s sound comes off the heels of many other indie pop songwriters in the past few years that utilize a low fidelity quality in their recordings. Although it’s easy to classify many songwriters in the indie pop space as simply occupying the elusive “lofi” genre, their songwriting goes so much further than the simple quality of fidelity in their sound. The songs on “Swimming Lessons” are complex in structure, diverse in instrumentation, and so much more defined than by their consistent sound profile. While showing a lot of minimal production in some tracks, others like the standout “Surface Tension” are fuller with drums, guitar, and bass and definitely stand out in contrast with the other more bare instrumentation tracks.
As a debut, “Swimming Lessons” is a phenomenal showing of songwriting that’s full of a warm, familiar atmosphere. Its emotional nuance and snapshot of a dreamy, coming of age perspective can be familiar to listeners and wistfully refreshing. The tracks show diversity in their instrumentation and are full of rich vocal harmonies, delicate piano, and catchy hooks. From recording songs on her phone in classes and posting them to SoundCloud just a few years ago, Genevieve Stokes has given us a debut E.P that is miles from amateur in its sound and execution.
You can listen to “Swimming Lessons” out on all streaming services and check out the music video for “Surface Tension” here.