Puddle-Cuddle is the side project of Carrboro, North Carolina-based Michael Quint, who usually records as Indoor Cats. With help from Will Atkinson (guitar/keys/synth), Alex Kan (bass) and Seamus Holland (drums), the project blends the unguarded, lo-fi immediacy of bedroom pop with something altogether more playful, the tracks veering from confessional hush to unworried rhythms and back again, presenting an endearing and relatable fluctuation in mood.
The project’s first EP, Bug Garden is what Quint describes as a five song goodbye to his mother, who passed away when he was in high school. However, as hinted above, Quint hasn’t followed convention by approaching grief and loss with purely sad songs, instead creating rich and varied indie pop that captures a whole gamut of emotions. This range and balance proves to be the true strength of the release, drawing not just upon the sorrow related to his mother but the joy too.
Opening track ‘Hemlock’ sets the tone, an upbeat indie pop song prone to eddies of hurried release, Quint following the current of his feelings across the both a flat meandering flow and white water washes. Similarly, ‘Stepped On’ has two distinct tempos, slow earnest lulls giving way to a breathless rattle that brings to mind the earnest wordiness of Kimya Dawson.
But none of this is to say the EP shrinks away from the difficult moments. ‘Hospice’ sees Quint confront his mother’s illness directly, imagining himself as a worm cut in two, cleaved by grief in the hospice chapel. The gentle acoustic track ‘Mother Moth’ is similarly direct, a song about the promise of heaven that embraces an almost Elverumian tone of plainspoken thoughts.
Final track ‘Compost’ feels like a distillation of everything that has come before. It’s a beautiful mix of carefree and feeling, wistful and celebratory and glad despite everything. Quint describes ‘Compost’ as a song about “letting go and moving on, while still preserving the memory of someone inside you,” and the idea is captured perfectly in the track. Puddle-Cuddle in no way downplays or underestimates the implications of loss, but appears determined to portray the other side of the relationship—the joy of knowing and being known, of loving and being loved.
Cover Photo by Nina Wilder, text by India M