Of all the noisy post-punk bands to emerge from Dublin in the past five years – and there are plenty of them – Sprints quickly established themselves as the best of a fantastic bunch with a run of showstopping singles from when they emerged in 2020. Their first full-length release, Letter to Self, kicks 2024 off with a bang: a faultless debut that embraces the darkness like no other.
Its opening trilogy of songs – Ticking, Heavy and Cathedral - are a fitting way to begin the album, with pounding percussion that conveys a sinking feeling of self-doubt just as effectively as their anxious lyrics do. Vocalist Karla Chubb writes relentless, stunning lyrics delivered with harrowing emotion, whether she’s howling out the album’s opening track or quietly asking you, ‘Do you ever feel like the room is heavy?’. This vulnerability does not make for an easy listen, but it does provide some of modern rock’s most poignant songwriting.
A lot of musical references blend together in Sprints’ signature sound. Pixies, Radiohead, Savages, Hole and The Cure leave their mark throughout. But there’s no comparison for their lyrical intensity. There’s simply no one else coming close to the gut-wrenching, visceral anxiety and fear that Sprints evoke in their music. This distinct quality is what sets them apart from their contemporaries.
Letter to Self thrives on a structure that allows its most anthemic moments to shine by surrounding them with quieter, but equally mighty songs. The massive Adore Adore Adore is paired with the slow buildup of Shadow of a Doubt, while the album’s most upbeat moment, Literary Mind, follows on from one of its darkest points on Can’t Get Enough Of It. Each anthem is made more potent by giving it room to breathe, while the quieter moments are the surprises that keep Letter To Self captivating from beginning to end.
Every single song is candid, cathartic and brave, with Karla Chubb coming to terms with her own experiences over the course of Letter To Self. The cold numbness and crashing anxiety that accompany dark thoughts on Shadow of a Doubt, or her observations of how women are treated in the music industry on Adore Adore Adore and Up And Comer, reaching new levels of honesty with unmatched authenticity and talent.
It might seem a little extreme to give out a five-star review so early on in the year, but Sprints honestly leave no other choice. Letter To Self is a masterclass in modern rock, so expertly crafted and delivered with such passion that its merits cannot be overstated. Could we have found the album of the year in the first few days of January? That remains to be seen. But Sprints have certainly set an ambitious standard for 2024.