'Butterflies Drink Turtle Tears' from Human People Delivers Dynamic Slacker Rock

Human People are a punk band from New York, NY; self-described via their Facebook page as “four punk princesses taking the highway to riff city.” Such an autobiography also happens to aptly describe their new record Butterflies Drink Turtle Tears. 

 Photo by Claire Dorfman

Photo by Claire Dorfman

The first song on the record “Radiator Water” opens with a guitar that sounds not unlike an air raid siren, before breaking into a more energetic slacker rock verse. The vocals are completely apathetic, to the point that the vocalist almost sounds bored. I love it. This vocal style is a total “fuck you” to the idea that women have to have “pretty” vocals. If men like Ian Curtis can get away with sounding like they don’t give a shit, why can’t girls? 

The lead guitars on the next track, “Jenny”, sound as lackadaisical as the vocals do. The lyrics describe something many can relate to: hardening yourself to the pain that results from the expectations of society, and making yourself into an image of something you’re not so that you don’t get hurt. Track “Black Flowers” has an appropriate title, as a flower is something pretty, yet black is a color that invokes negativity. The music is catchy and fun, and makes me want to dance, but lyrics like “what’s the point of living when you’re always alone? what’s the point of living when you only get stoned?” contrast notably.

The vocals in “Bottle” sound a little less apathetic and a little more desperate. The guitars are the most jarring and jagged on the entire record here. “California” is definitely my favorite song on the record. It’s so catchy and sassy, and encapsulates everything I want in a punk song. Lines like “I’m gonna go to Cali-fucking-fornia, it’s where I will die” just ooze cool. 


“Gloom” is the musical incarnation of spiraling out. It’s hypnotic, the lyrics are absolutely miserable, and somehow the song just keeps getting faster. “Radio Flyer” is the first song on the record that features Human People’s other vocalist. Her voice is somewhat more honeyed than the other’s, but she also sounds like she doesn’t’ give a single shit. The song is an ode to summer days past: a radio flyer is a the little red wagon everybody had as a kid. 

“Run Me Over” is where the vocalist sounds like she’s finally given up. The refrain of the title is sung in an absolutely defeated manner over a fun clapping section that kind of reminds me of the Strokes. The next song, “Church”, is a departure from rest of the record’s sound. It’s primarily acoustic guitars, with the addition of swirling organs and a gentle xylophone near the end. The song is super creepy, and all of the religious iconography reminds of horror films like The Conjuring. The track’s sweet, higher pitched vocals undoubtedly contribute to the it’s eerie quality. 

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You know a song is gonna be good when it opens with someone yelling “every time I close my eyes I feel like I am gonna die”. Not only are the lyrics to “Mood Swings” incredibly yearning, but also panicked to the point that her voice even cracks at some points. “In My Speakers” reminds me a dance song from the 60’s, sped up and played with a lot more aggression. It’s grungy and fun, and I can imagine it being one of their best songs to see live at shows. One of the things this band is really good at is creating a quiet bridge that explodes into a sudden loud chorus. Those dynamics bring a level of maturity to the songwriting and show just how put together of a band they really are, even if it sounds like they don’t really care at all. 

I must point to a line in “No Tides” that caught my attention with simply how clever it is: “I’m sorry I’m a cancer.” Does she mean the disease? Or does she mean the zodiac sign? Coupled with this line is a sudden tempo change from the verse to the chorus, which grabs listeners’ attention right away. Then the record fades out, repeating the lyrics “when you are low I’m high”. 

This record has been playing on my commute to school and back pretty much nonstop since it came out. If you like grungy slacker rock with a tinge of angry punk, this is just the record for you. 

-Sammy Gagnon

Delaney Motter