There's a myth about self reflection: that it leads to self-love; that gaining an understanding of ourselves always brings peace. Perhaps that's true in the long term. But sometimes when we go looking for ourselves, we don't always like what we find.
Maryn Jones, who releases music under the name Yowler, didn't intentionally seek out these kinds of lessons after releasing her album The Offer in 2015. They came anyway. A few years spent touring with other musical projects — Jones plays in the bands All Dogs and Saintseneca — combined with a period of personal upheaval led to what Jones calls an "unexpected and un-asked-for period of self-reflection."
This season of processing unfolds across Black Dog in My Path, Yowler's forthcoming second album. The songs on Black Dog are crafted with tenderness, relying on the intensity of Jones' introspection and her aching delivery. But the album experiments away from the lo-fi intimacy of The Offer and shows new versions of what Yowler, as a project, can sound like. Jones is joined in this effort by a variety of collaborators: Kyle Gilbride (who helped produce the record and played synth and guitar on it), Matt O'Conke (Yowler's former Saintseneca bandmate, who drums on Black Dog), Catherine Elicson (of the band Empath; bass and clarinet) and Michael Cantor (of The Goodbye Party; bowed guitar, cello and vocals).
While Black Dog does wrestle with darkness, it also features moments of hope. "WTFK" is perhaps the most upbeat song on the album, though it's grounded by a heavy conceptual basis. Jones calls it "a song about sin, self-harm, being truly human and a person's connection with themselves." But rather than wallow, Jones lands in a place of peace. "I floated freely from old failing servants of God / If want is evil, I'm becoming dark," she sings, her voice reaching over what is the closest Black Dog gets to a grooving, danceable beat.
Jones says the song was inspired, in part, by her attempts to face aspects of self-hatred and shame that stemmed from her religious upbringing. "Coming to terms with certain aspects of your personality and your behavior can be a challenge, but why hate or hurt yourself?" Jones says of the song's meaning. "As long as you're being responsible for your actions and not harming anyone else, why not let yourself be yourself?"
Black Dog In My Path comes out Oct. 12 on Double Double Whammy.