Vivian McCall documents her transition on her life-affirming debut as Pansy | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Vivian McCall documents her transition on her life-affirming debut as Pansy


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Chicago multi-instrumentalist and recording engineer Vivian McCall helped turn Andrew Smith’s bedroom project, Jungle Green, into a bona fide six-piece band when she joined in 2017. Since they all began playing together, she’s engineered sessions for projects by the band’s other members, and she’s also stepped out on her own with her self-titled solo debut as Pansy. The nine-track album came out early this month via Earth Libraries, a label in Birmingham, Alabama, whose catalog includes punk, experimental, and lo-fi music. McCall harnesses the contemplative power of intimate home recordings and the emotional punch of effervescent power pop to document her journey as a trans woman. She began her transition a few years ago, and she has a gift for expressing that complex experience in undeniable hooks, which she rolls out in a variety of distinctive indie-rock subgenres. Throughout Pansy she covers a lot of emotional territory: at one moment she longs for a lover who will see her as she sees herself (in the plainspoken, hushed acoustic number “Who Will Love Me Enough?”), and at the next she rages at her body mid-transition (in the fuzzy, lo-fi rocker “Anybody Help Me”). McCall’s resolve and magnetism carry her easily through these stylistic changes, and even in the album’s most disconsolate moments she sounds like she can overcome anything.   v

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