Review: IT IT – Two Squirrels Fighting Each Other at the End of the World (self-released, Feb 19)

IT IT’s masterpiece of a self-titled EP is one of the newest entries in the short list of releases I’d describe as perfect, edged out of the top spot only by Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman, which came out just a few months later. The pioneering Pittsburgh band has most recently manifested in the form of semi-related project sneeze awfull, whose debut cassette charts a slightly different, more pop-focused approach to the unique combination of conventional songwriting and sample collage, but they’re back to their art-rock roots with Two Squirrels Fighting Each Other at the End of the World, their first full-length since 2017’s superb Formal Odors. The mouthful of a phrase also provides the incessant refrain of the title track, which upon first listening I found too repetitive, but like all of IT IT’s material has grown on me immensely. While that piece is the most conspicuous example, Two Squirrels as a whole seems to mold itself in the image of newer experiments like the aforementioned sneeze awfull and a “live score” to the Twilight Zone episode “Living Doll”, leaning further into the playful volatility that a “plunderphonics”-esque sensibility often entails without abandoning the crucial moments of straightforward beauty that have seared the band into my brain and heart permanently. “Do Evaporate” distills that duality into a single song, beginning with choppy vocal hodgepodge like a dinky mellotron and concluding with one of IT IT’s most sublime full-band cohesions. “Whole Folder” provides some much-needed grit with angular guitar stabs over a hypnotic motorik beat; “Age of Aquarius” features mesmerizingly intricate bass and drum interplay and captivating sample choices; and “Dulce Dulce” brings things to a close with a delightfully quirky education-audio accompaniment that for me bears fond resemblance to OMD’s work on Dazzle Ships. At first modest and unassuming due to its easy fluidity, the complexity of IT IT’s music sneaks up on you, gradually rewiring your neurons until one day you finally realize there’s nothing else in the world that compares.

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