Dead Gowns is the songwriting project of Geneviève Beaudoin. Her latest collection, the HOW EP (out Oct 14, 2022), is a confident declaration of self-acceptance. First penned during the recording sessions of a separate Dead Gowns full length in January 2021, these four songs – urgent, necessary and assuming a life of their own – rose to the surface. When a recording opportunity emerged, thanks to a grant offered by Portland, ME studio Prism Analog, the new collection became a reality. The ensuing record boasts a cast of good friends/collaborators, including Luke Kalloch, Peter McLaughlin, Nat Baldwin, Alex Millan, Aisha Burns, and Brett DesChenes. It is a decisive statement from a band comfortably growing to meet its potential.
Ideas of shedding, and the power and tenderness required to do so, are evoked again and again over the course of this collection. ‘Renter Not a Buyer’ is the cheekiest of the tracks, but also the most indelible. The chorus is a veritable earworm, as catchy as it is damning. It’s a multi-faceted exploration of the shells we inhabit, the work involved in preserving them, and how they so often fail us. The narrator, hungover and late to work, tumbles down the stairs from an apartment too drafty to be habitable. Bleeding from the mouth, she tries to kiss her date goodbye, avoiding a larger reality in her body. Beaudoin’s own experiences with endometriosis inform this exploration: she sets concealed pain in direct opposition to the demands of saving face. This process is invariably fraught with contradictions and she is the first to recognize the absurdity of trying at all.
The rest of the EP is less fixated on the pitfalls of how one presents to the world. Though Beaudoin first wrote these songs as unspoken dialogues, she sees them now as affirmations intended for herself. ‘How You Act’ is a reclamation of agency, empowering the narrator to forgive and accept: “Yeah it’s messy, grow up your heart” elucidates this revelation, with Beaudoin’s voice ringing out unaccompanied for a brief moment of quiet triumph.” ‘Change Your Mind’ is a moving celebration of this new life, emerging with gusto from the past. Set atop swelling strings and the warm swagger of a Fender Rhodes, this affirmation feels earned and regal. But it’s the final track, ‘Real Life,’ - a later addition to the EP - that reminds Beaudoin that there’s no fixed point here. She must make peace with the fact that her desire for change will always run alongside a past that won’t entirely stay past.
Throughout the four songs that make up the HOW EP, Beaudoin deftly traces the molting process from the darkly comic wriggling of the larval state to the transcendence of uncalloused being.