Dreaming of life underwater, 21-year-old singer-songwriter Quinn Barnitt released her subversive debut album flounder on February 24, 2023 under Columbia Records. Under the name quinnie, the musician went viral with her song “touch tank,” the song trending on TikTok for weeks. With the rise of soft indie, new musicians are emerging seemingly everywhere. But quinnie distinguishes herself from the bedroom pop chaos with her elusively dreamy voice, subtle instrument changes, and lyrics that encompass the transitional period from teenager to adult.
flounder opens with “man,” quinnie’s high, airy voice immediately shining on the vexed track. With the help of an acoustic guitar and an echo chorus, quinnie sings about letting go of a toxic relationship. Her wispy sound, reminiscent of that of Adrianne Lenker, remains in pitch the entire album. Instead of this meshing together each track, it collectivizes it, creating an album that flows from one piece to the next in a beautifully calm manner. The following song, “security question,” focuses on quinnie’s longing for someone to connect to, especially as she ages. “Hold the door for the person behind me, it’s the only time/ To show some warmth ‘fore they brust past and swiftly return to their life/ Could we lock eyes on the subway, fall in love today?/ Or hands in pockets, forget their face and look away?”
“Itch,” the third track, covers the all-too relatable feeling of loving the anticipation of a moment more than the event itself. The slightly folk rhythm of the track, equipped with subtle strings, manifests the nostalgic nature quinnie destines her listeners to feel. “What if I never scratched another/ Itch for the rest of my life?/ Would I die satisfied/ Knowing it could always get better than this?”
“get what u get” and “emblem,” the sixth and seventh tracks on flounder, differ the most from the others. The former, covering the idea of suppressing your negative feelings, builds into a full-rock chorus with electric guitar strums and hardcore drum beats. However, “emblem” channels more pop-based energies, slowing down at the end by minimizing the power of each instrument in a dramatic finale. These stand-out tracks hit the mark in proving quinnie’s abilities to diverge from her usual indie feel, indicating her genre range and musical possibilities.
The eighth song “better” maintains its acoustic nature and simple chord play throughout its duration. quinnie uses the track to acknowledge her, and so many other artists’, belief that only through suffering can people ever make great art. She sings, “I don’t know why I don’t wanna get better, I wanna stay the same/ And I say that I’ll figure it out once all of my songs are sang.”
In a song that sounds like something from The Lumineers’ debut album, the ninth track “promised” changes the pace of qunnie’s acoustic into something more folk-like. The use of strings to elevate the emotions in the piece transforms it into something affirming rather than mystical, a beautiful ploy to get across the song’s central message of appreciating the simplicity of life. “Sleep long for the sheet prints it leaves on my face/ Tomorrow isn’t promised but I woke today/ I don’t really care how long I get to stay/ So long as I’m gone once I’ve felt everything.” This idea of living a simple life rings again in the following track “flounder” which serves as the basis for the album. With seemingly nothing more than a guitar and some drums, quinnie perpetuates her belief in slow-living and acknowledging the little things in life charmingly.
The album ends with a little interlude. “jake’s car” tells the story of suburban America: cookie-cutter houses in old neighborhoods, car rides to nowhere, and the early morning glow from the sun. In the midst of growing older and changing familiar ways, quinnie retraces her teenage steps in flounder, finding a way to close the chapter organically rather than forced and set herself ready for a dive into the deep end.