Released almost exactly one year after her debut album, Sidney Gish’s new No Dogs Allowed marks a significant step forward for the Boston singer-songwriter. Gish’s debut marked the scope of her ambition by having her play every instrument, mostly with just her guitar and voice. Dogs sees Gish venturing with different guitar tones, more drum loops, and real bass. Gish also keeps with her writing of catchy songs withs, somewhat random lyrics, although she seems a little bit more thoughtful this time around. With the increased popularity, Gish is placing herself in league with the likes of Waxahatchee, Julien Baker, and other indie-pop songstresses that have taken the music industry by storm so much in the past year.
Gish maintains her DIY singer-songwriter aesthetic on this album, but she’s incorporated enough variation to make a huge splash while maintaining the charm that made Ed Buys Houses so fun. “Bird Tutorial” makes this evident early on. Built around a tape that pet owners use to train parrots to speak, but it has a jazzy, upbeat feeling that is almost reminiscent of a Saturday morning cartoon. Gish incorporates these spoken samples throughout the album, and it adds to an interesting texture that keeps the album from getting too serious and holding onto the fun pace of the album. In addition to expanding instrumentation, Gish has added her own backup vocals and plays her electric guitar with more precision. It’s unsurprising that so many publications have mistaken that she studied jazz guitar, because she’s such a strong player. It’s what sets her above many of her contemporaries is just the pure musical skill she possesses, and Gish really flexes those chops on No Dogs Allowed. “Persephone” and “New Recording 180 (New Year’s Eve)” both reflect these the best, because they’re both soft songs, where the listener can focus in on each element.
Besides indie-pop, Gish takes some of her lyrical inspiration from hip hop, and it’s more prevalent here than on Ed. One of the album’s highlights, “Sin Triangle” has the chorus “Two-faced bitches never lie/Therefore, I never lie.” That line could’ve just as easily ended up on a Lil Peep or Kanye album. Gish occasionally returns to her roots with a nonsensical chorus like “I’m wasted/just kidding/I’m high.” Still, songs like “Persephone” are delivered with a massive emotional weight to them that questions the social construction of language. “New Recording 180” is a well-deserved reflection recorded on New Year’s Eve, where Gish discusses having had a successful year. While the lyrics can still be somewhat nonsensical pastiches of college life, Gish seems to be putting a little bit more depth behind them. If Gish keeps at the current pace she’s at, we’ll have an even more fun and insightful record to begin 2019 with.