Young Froth/Taypiss is a compilation of some of the earliest of Montreal tracks, given out as a vinyl to people who contributed to the Kickstarter for the band’s upcoming documentary. As someone who considers some of the earliest of Montreal recordings (Cherry Peel and The Early Four Track Recordings especially) to be top-notch masterpieces, I can safely say I was, really, really, really excited about this. Kevin Barnes’ earliest recordings have a notable personal and playful lyrical touch that pushes some albums to entirely new levels of greatness.
These songs, for obvious reasons, share much in common with the tracks on The Early Four Track Recordings, not only in the lo-fi recording, but in the Beatles-esque folk pop that was all too typical of Elephant 6 groups during that time. What put of Montreal in the same league as stuff like the Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel is that Kevin Barnes knows how to write a damn good pop song, and that is most apparent in his early recordings. The wistful, beautiful pop songs on this album are exactly the type of music I wish more people would make, and Kevin Barnes in full pop mode is something to behold.
This LP’s highlights— blissful pop cuts like “Absent Plot,” “Dumb Acre,” “I Belong to the Moment” and “Soft Breakables,” just to name a few, effortlessly get to be on the same level as the highlights of The Early Four Track Recordings. All of these songs feature Kevin Barnes’ signature writing style, jamming tons of colorful chord changes and kaleidoscopic lyrics with some fantastic moments (“You could be my soda pop, even though you’ll be overweight by your mid-30s,” “I wouldn’t call her sugar, she’s more of a Nutrasweet”). Long story short, if you’re looking for good, lo-fi twee pop, this is for you.
Of course, there’s still some quirks. At this early time in his career, it still feels like some of his songs are a little too all over the place. Still, this is a must-hear for fans of the band, and even if you don’t like some of the places the band have gone in more recent years, this is still some top-notch stuff. If I had to pick, I’d say The Early Four Track Recordings has the better songs for the most part, but this comes really close. On a side note, the band has a new album coming out this year, called Lousy with Sylvanbriar, follow-up to last year’s Paralytic Stalks. Stay tuned for that! B+
Before I start this, let me just put out an update about the blog. The past few months I’ve been really busy finishing up my last year of college, so obviously I’ve been swamped with a plethora of frustrating work. I haven’t had much time to listen to a lot of music that attentively, much less write a couple of paragraphs about it. That said, it’s finally over now (Thank god)! I’m going to get around to reviewing a lot of albums that have both been submitted and that I have been meaning to get around to. Thanks to everyone who is sticking around!
Martha, Martha is an EP by Virginia group The Duskwhales. This four track release is a group of quite energetic rock tunes with a kind of garage-y and alternative tinge. Their music is a melting pot of several styles, from fuzzy blues-rock, a very slight pinch of guitar-led math rock as well as 90s alternative.
The opener and title track has a riffy, garage rock sound and a chorus that screams 60s psychedelia. It’s a great, fun song and it’s definitely not lacking. What I love the most about it is probably the way the singer sounds like the vocalists from both Foxygen and MGMT. He just has that playful, soft timbre that I like, that unfortunately isn’t on the other tracks as much. “Humble the Rest” is probably the best song on this, though, because of its gorgeous instrumentation and vocal melody. Out of all the songs, its the one with the most religious themes, and although the lyrics are a bit on the simple side, the songwriting is brilliant. The way the sections lead into each other and the superb drumming are the true highlights here.
In the latter two songs, the group plays around with more speed up-slow down type of songwriting. The main vocal line of “Festival” is very slow and pretty, leading from and to the double time, happy verse. The closer, “King of Worms” is the opposite, starting slow and murky, but leading into a faster, more frantic chorus. This is the only song that I felt kind of left me hanging when it came to melody, because there’s nothing that really immediately jumps out at you in that respect.
This is a solid group of songs from this group, and I’m really enjoying it. It’s not exactly at mind-blowing level to me in terms of songwriting, but this group is a very impressive group of musicians, which means they come with a load of potential. Some of that shines through in some of the more striking melodies that are on this EP, so I can’t wait to hear more from these guys! Check it out on their Bandcamp, and consider dropping a few bucks for it! B
Random Access Memories is the newest record from French duo Daft Punk, who I assume needs no introduction. Their call to greatness is the fantastic 2001 house album, Discovery, which used sampling and their trademark robot vocals with dazzling effect. The group could not match this with their follow-up, Human After All, which felt almost like a parody of themselves. With Random Access Memories, however, the duo have taken some of the light disco elements that were present in Discovery and taken it to an extreme. This is no longer a view of the future, but of the past, recreating 70s and 80s disco funk in the most authentic way possible while still being Daft Punk.
This is apparent and unmistakeable from the very beginning. Opener “Give Life Back to Music” starts with heavy, distorted guitars with fluttering synths in the background. The introduction quickly gives way to the smooth funk that is featured on much of the album: a funky, syncopated guitar, buttery keyboards and a four-on-the-floor dance beat. However, when the vocoder vocals kick in, it suddenly dawns on you that this is still Daft Punk. Their goal seems to be abundantly clear: to create dance music that would be right at home at a discotheque in the 70s. Yet, the group is still using the mantra of electronic music— they’re taking something and repeating it, then building upon it. But just as in Discovery, they have enough changes and parts to make the song very interesting regardless.
The big stars of the disco-type songs on this album are the two collaborations with R&B singer Pharell Williams, “Lose Yourself to Dance” and lead single “Get Lucky.” The former is extremely, and I say extremely catchy. One of the most definitive moments of the album comes as Pharell is chanting the title of the track repeatedly, and Daft Punk’s robot vocals chant “Come on” repeatedly, and then an third counter melody comes up and you just get lost in this bliss. To me, it almost feels like the climax of the whole album. “Get Lucky” follows suit similarly, and is quite an infectious dance track, accented even more by Nile Roger’s fantastic guitar lead.
There are other tracks that are really funky too, though they are a bit spottier. ”Touch” clocks in at 8 minutes, and starts out a little weak for me. It meanders for about 2 minutes before it actually starts, and Paul Williams’ shaky vocal delivery only takes the song so far until a lovely string, brass and honky-tonk piano push it into greater territory. It doesn’t last too long until the song completely changes gear and Daft Punk takes over with a fantastic delivery that includes strings and a choir. It’s absolutely epic, yet it drops back to Paul Williams at the end. The soft “The Game of Love,” “Beyond” and “Within” try to be slightly moodier and darker, but believe me when I say they are extremely cheesy and bring out the negative side of the music that they are trying to pay tribute to. Not only that, but the vocoder vocals are extremely annoying when they’re not trying to be fun— in a situation like this, the entire result becomes laughably terrible.
It becomes apparent that with the notable exception of “Give Life Back to Music,” the duo can’t really carry the disco concept without a collaborator to take them off the lead spot. That said, there is an ample amount of tracks that go to some different places. “Instant Crush,” which features Strokes lead singer Julian Casablancas, is really enjoyable, and if it had a bit more of a rock production, it would have felt right at home in an album like this year’s Comedown Machine, and has Casablancas exploring some of those high notes that he has been exploring in The Strokes’ own material. The closest this album to electronic “synthpop” is in the back-to-back “Fragments of Time” and “Doin’ It Right.” The former, which is a collaboration with Todd Edwards, does some of the disco that’s on the rest of the album, but is a really synth-heavy track, although it doesn’t have anything really memorable to distinguish it besides that. The latter was one of my most anticipated tracks because of the guest vocals from Animal Collective vocalist Panda Bear (See my review of Centipede Hz here). Panda Bear’s vocals are awesome as usual, and the click-clack feeling of the light and spacious instrumentation and looped Daft Punk vocals complement Panda Bear’s thick, at times even harmonized vocals.
The album is strongest, however, when Daft Punk themselves put down the vocoders and work on making instrumental epics. The 9-minute “Giorgio by Moroder” features spoken word from Giorgio Moroder himself, but that quickly goes away about two minutes in, and the duo builds around the successive instrumental beat for a while before exploding into epic territory when strings come in around the 5 minute mark. “Motherboard” is one of the most cinematic tracks of the album, and features these swirling woodwinds backing the duo’s electronica, and shows Daft Punk must have taken away a thing or two from soundtracking a film. It’s absolutely beautiful and feels really alien and mysterious. Finally, the closer, “Contact” ends the album on an epic note, with its fantastic, heavy live drums and building electronica in the background.
Random Access Memories is the work of a duo on a mission: to make good dance music. Here, they have succeeded not only that, but also to make a kind of circus of collaborators to enhance what might otherwise have been a more monotonous experience. They have a fantastic pop sensibility that glows right in the middle of the album, but the long epics such as “Giorgio by Moroder” and “Touch” really stand out as well. Although it falters a bit at times, this album is still really good, and is a great comeback album for Daft Punk. B+
James Blake is a well-known UK producer who just happens to have a lovely singing voice. His minimalistic production style gained him some attention with his early EPs, but he really came out with a bang with his 2011 self-titled debut LP. In that album, he produced some awesome and creative tracks, such as “Limit to Your Love,” “Measurements” and “The Wilhelm Scream,” where he mixed his R&B singing with his minimized and quiet electronica with successful results.
In his second LP, Overgrown, James Blake is aiming the bring out his R&B side, delivering more straightforward and direct songs in the process. This album is much more reliant on melody and the vocals, and the production aspect is put in the backburner, for better or for worse. Thankfully, Blake proves in this record that he is perfectly capable of writing fantastic pop songs. Take the shining star of the album, the incredibly strong “Retrograde.” It showcases all of his strengths in full, from the minimalistic, yet hard-hitting instrumentation and the very strong, soulful vocals and melodies. All of these aspects merge to create an absolutely gloomy, yet enchanting pop song.
The title track, “Overgrown” is another glowing standout, and again showcases his knack for lovely vocal melodies. “I Am Sold” and “Life Round Here” similarly dish out some sexy vocals to fantastic blooping synths. That said, he does find some time to deliver some of that weirdness I was craving from him. “Voyeur” uses a very odd vocal melody, with Blake repeating “I don’t mind, it was all me” throughout the song, and the instrumentation sort of revolves around this mantra he keeps repeating. The trancy beat of “Digital Lion” is also extremely hypnotizing and complements him perfectly, while delivering some fantastic instrumental sections, courtesy of well known collaborator Brian Eno.
The album’s oddest moment comes in “Take a Fall for Me,” which features guest vocals from rapper RZA, who absolutely kills it in this song, although the track admittedly feels a little out of place because of it. The final track I will mention is “DLM,” which is a pretty piano ballad. It is a kind of weird track in that it is trying to be pretty, yet ends up being more unsettling because of the sudden and abrupt piano stop at the end of his vocal lines. Overgrown is a fantastic pop album, and has James Blake flexing some different muscles than he did on his debut. His fantastic songwriting and hooks make this album into something extraordinary, and an album I’d recommend. A-
Vampire Weekend is a New York indie pop group that have wowed me in 2008 with their terrific self-titled debut record in 2008. Their 2010 follow-up Contra was an album that tried to continue suit with a similar sound, but in my opinion, didn’t perform quite as well when it came to delivering the interesting and catchy baroque pop songs that it was trying to make. After a long absence, the band is finally back, with Modern Vampires of the City. The tracks dropped prior to this record, “Diane Young,” “Step” and “Ya Hey” suggested a big stylistic shift for this band, towards more assertive pop territory in terms of both songwriting and production.
The album’s opening run of songs are some of the best the group has ever produced. The subdued opener “Obvious Cycle” is one of the group’s slowest burners, with a solemn mood that is a large contrast to the band’s happy-go-lucky attitude in the past. The album picks up the pace with “Unbelievers,” a fantastic pop song that trudges through with a sense of unnerving anticipation, until it finally reveals itself wholly for a short, blissful moment that makes the whole song amazing. Two of the songs that were released before are placed next.
First, the slow, dreamy “Step” is a very beautiful, awe-inspiring masterpiece. It’s an incredibly graceful and sentimental ballad, and one of the group’s greatest masterpieces. The other, “Diane Young” picks up the pace as a quick and punchy party rocker. It’s one of the group’s most catchy songs, and it has some really hard drums that I am just obsessed with. “Don’t Lie” continues in typical Vampire Weekend fashion, with a lovely string section and sky-high chorus.
Starting with the next song, “Hannah Hunt,” however, it becomes clear that the album loses some of its steam. The song is yet another slower track, but this one is pretty unremarkable until three minutes into the song until the rest of the instruments kick in. Even then, the melody still isn’t very amazing, but is saved by Ezra Koenig’s very impassioned vocals. But some other tracks, like “Everlasting Arms” and “Worship You,” start out strong, but doesn’t go to very captivating places during their length. “Ya Hey” presents itself as the other beautiful, sublime track of the album. Despite presenting some cool ideas, like that cool otherworldly choir, it doesn’t go too far in distinguishing itself as much other than “Step” Part 2. However, it is a pretty song melodically, and despite not being anywhere near as good as what came before it, it’s enjoyable.
In the closing moments, the album has the very bizarre “Hudson,” which is a very different mood for this group— it’s dark and very creepy. It works out very well, and ends up being one of the best tracks on the record. However, it fizzles out with the short closer “Young Lion,” which is pretty nice but it doesn’t come off as anything more than a short, rather undeveloped idea that could have been more than what it is.
Modern Vampires of the City is an enjoyable album from this group, despite not being perfect. It partly brings back some of the awesome, memorable melodies that were somewhat missing from Contra, and in that process delivers some of the best songs so far in their career. I can’t say I’m as much of a fan of this new pop sound compared to the world-music influenced, syncopated sound of their previous albums, but I’m happy that they’re trying new things instead of continuing the same thing with less-memorable results. Unlike in Contra, I feel like some of the moments here do reach the incredible heights of songs like “Walcott” and “Oxford Comma,” which is more than I can say for the last album. It’s an album that’s very much worth checking out. B
Guided By Voices are one of my favorite groups to cover because of how prolific they are. After putting out a whopping 3 albums last year (Here, here and here), the group seemed to be all over the place in terms of quality, but at every second they sounded as full of energy and drive as they were in the 90s. English Little League, the fourth LP since their reunion, proves to be a continuation of the trajectory set in their previous records towards more typical indie rock recordings. Their very lo-fi EP earlier this year was not really an indication of where this album was going.
The songs here are actually much longer than normal for this band, which usually puts out a lot of really short tracks. Strangely, only two tracks here go under the two minute mark, and, in fact, there are a lot of them that go up into the three minute range (Shocking)! As far as the production, this is no clean high budget production by any means, in fact, this album contains some of their most lo-fi stuff since the first album of 2012. But as far as this band goes, some of these songs can even sound well produced. Listening to this, it’s easy to see how far the band has come since the murky and often sloppy recordings of Let’s Go Eat the Factory a mere year and a half ago.
It is easy to see from this album however, that the biggest casualty from this band’s hyper-prolific output is the songwriting. Many of the melodies in their new songs have sounded uninspired and bland, but that is especially the case in this album. Even in the gratingly spotty Let’s Go Eat the Factory, there were some magical melodies that stood out among the rest of the songs like shining rays of light, but even that situation is pretty bleak in this album. That is not to say there are no notable melodies in this album, but the length of the songs exacerbates what was a small issue in the past. In their past albums, the short lengths of the songs meant that if there was a crappy one, it was done quickly. But now, bore-fests like “Trash Can Full of Nails” and “Send to Celeste” are stretched over more traditional, longer lengths, making them just that much more unbearable.
There are some good moments here though. Opener “Xeno Pariah” is typical catchy Pollard stuff, and is easily one of the strongest songs on this album. The pretty lo-fi ballad “Biographer Seahorse” is also some fantastic stuff, with a gracefully slow pace that has been a trait of a lot of this band’s best moments. Tobin Sprout’s material is once again pretty strong too, with a strong emphasis on great vocal melodies and heavenly harmonies, the strongest of which is probably the lovely “Islands.”
In their last three albums, the group had a mixed bag of songs that were either just bad or incredibly good. Usually in those albums, the standouts were so good that they justified a full listen. But in this album, there aren’t any really bad tracks or any really good tracks. There are just a lot of “meh” tracks. Because of that, English Little League is easily the weakest release from this band since their reunion. However, we’re talking about a band that puts out two to three records a year. They can’t realistically release that many records and not have one that doesn’t impress. Hopefully their next record (Presumably out sometime soon?) will be better than this. C
This is a review that has been in the cooker for a while. Nanobots is the 16th album by New York group They Might Be Giants. For many, many years, this group has delivered a lot of great, witty rock music that is just as colorful thematically as it is musically. This record is no different, and looks to deliver their goofy brand of rock without compromising on the substance. This record is a huge 25 tracks long, but many of the tracks are less than a minute in length, resulting in an apparently easily digestible 45 minutes.
However, easily digestible it is not. It often feels like this album is much longer than it actually is because of its large amount of songs. But at least the quality is mostly consistent enough to make it worth the ride. The first four tracks are extremely strong. Opener “You’re on Fire” has the hook and the energy to blow away even people who aren’t into this band. The title track is a cute earworm that does playfulness right. The weird “Black Ops” is a more moody, minimalistic track that is kind of spooky as it builds into an all-out bloodthirsty thrash. Finally, the sky high rocker “Lost My Mind” is a lovely tune with an emotional sincerity I feel is sometimes lacking with this group.
Following these tracks is where it starts getting a little mixed for me. The tracks following these four is where it starts getting shorter, more formless, and to be honest, a little corny, even for They Might Be Giants. Most of these songs feel like unfinished ideas that were thrown together, and it drags on and on and on. There’s a couple of bright spots sprinkled throughout, like the slow, subdued song “Sometimes a Lonely Way,” the jazzy “Replicant” and the bizarre “Stuff Is Way,” but for the most part, these shorter tracks come off as completely vapid.
Nanobots is an album that will surely please fans of the group. It’s got everything you want, witty rock tunes with great instrumentation and production that range from fun to wacky to completely bizarre. But it’s definitely not going to convert any new people with its, for lack of a better word, filler. It can be an exhausting album to listen to because of the large amount of tracks. That said, it is a good album, and it’s very enjoyable. The highs are very, very good on this thing, so if just for that, you should check it out. B-
>Indie Rock, Shoegaze, Lo-fi, Garage Rock, Noise Rock
Listen to: “Monomania”
Monomania is the sixth album by everyone’s favorite Georgia indie darlings, Deerhunter. In their decade long career, they have garnered a lot of praise, yet have never really delivered one truly fantastic album, in my opinion, except for the fantastic experimental shoegaze album Cryptograms, which is my personal favorite. Now, that is not to say they are an inconsistent or mediocre band; despite being laden with songs that screamed filler, 2010’s Halcyon Digest had some incredible songs on it. And in 2008, the lovely Microcastle was quite sleek and soothing despite being a tad toothless as a whole. I suppose a general thing to say about both of those albums is that they focused a lot on the atmosphere. There was a huge focus on the spacy, dreamy production that I think got a little more priority than the songwriting. Monomania is very different.
Halcyon Digest’s dreamy sound was a trendy thing at the time, and although it has become a little played out now, you have to recognize that Deerhunter were a band that took part in pioneering that sound. I feel like Deerhunter have made a really sensible decision in Monomania to opt for something more blunt, buzzy and different, as to not be pigeonholed. The end result is something that is not quite as smooth; it’s a bitter pill to swallow. The lo-fi wrapping is starkly similar to the more impromptu recordings of indie bands of the 90s, like Guided By Voices and Pavement. The closest thing Deerhunter have put out in that respect is their punky debut album, Turn it Up Faggot and Weird Era Cont., the pretty bonus record to Microcastle. The change can be a little shocking at first, but like many great albums, once you get past that, it reveals the brilliance underneath.
However, Deerhunter fans will find the band hasn’t really changed that much underneath all of this. If anything, lead man Bradford Cox’s songwriting is stronger than ever. A couple of songs in Halcyon Digest felt like merely going through the motions, without any real interesting melody. There are no songs that feel that way here in Monomania, and it’s amazing how Bradford Cox’s excellent lyricism, hook-making qualities are better than ever here. From the catchy guitar melody of “Leather Jacket II,” the immediately infectious sing-along codas of songs like “Pensacola,” “Sleepwalking” and “Monomania,” or even the lo-fi folk of “Nitebike” are immediately catchy.
That is not to say this is an immediate album, however. Believe me when I say I spent a LONG time writing and rewriting this review repeatedly as my opinion changed. The lo-fi production can take some getting used to, especially if you’re coming into this expecting the glossy and reverberating sound of Halcyon Digest. The only left over relic of that sound on this album is, unsurprisingly, Lockett Pundt’s only song on the album, “The Missing.” (My review of his solo album from last year over here!), which is pure Lockett. It is pure shoegazy goodness with a great hook. However, unlike in their last album, Lockett is not the star of the show in this album, it is clearly Bradford Cox’s stage this time around.
Bradford is clearly reaching out of his comfort zone here, to some fantastic results. The opener “Neon Junkyard” is a beautiful folk rock anthem that starts he album on a beautiful somber note. The country-rocker “Pensacola” is something unlike anything Deerhunter has done before, and coupled with some fantastic lyricism and instrumentation makes for one of Deerhunter’s best songs. The back-to-back “Dream Captain” and “Blue Agent” both have a similar playful aura that relies on a riff, but they are contrasted by the former being a massively energetic rocker, while the latter is a more subdued, sleepy track. The shining masterpiece of the album, the title track, is even better in the context of the album. Cox laments about his misfortunes in this track, saying “And in my head there is something rotting dead/I can’t compete with it, let me be released from this” before the group goes into a massive, three-minute climactic coda where Cox focuses all of the frustrations that he’s detailed throughout the course of the album into a single word: “Monomania.”
The track that immediately follows, “Nitebike,” is equally as good. The whole thing is just Cox and an acoustic guitar, making for a very lonely and melancholic postlude; he says “I found all my problems/They came back up to me.” This leads into the fantastic closer “Punk (La Vie Anterieure),” which feels like an epilogue of sorts, like the foggy morning following a catastrophic night of heavy drinking. Let me sum up Monomania very quickly: I think it is Deerhunter’s best album. I think it is a masterpiece that sums up the band’s decade long career. This isn’t an immediate record, however. Don’t listen to this and think you’re going to like it immediately, because the production does take some getting used to. If you’re looking for a record that is pure, unhindered indie rock, this is for you. Personally, this is the record that has solidified Deerhunter’s place as one of the best bands in the genre. A
Mosquito is the newest album by veteran rockers Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They have consistently delivered fantastic singles with each one of their albums, but to me, none of their albums themselves really crossed into the “amazing” zone. However, that doesn’t discount from any of their artistic merit, as they still work continually to expand their boundaries, as evidenced by their 2009 dancy record It’s Blitz! In this new record, that hasn’t changed one bit. I would actually say, this is one of their most consistent records. I was planning to ignore the cover completely because of how… Eccentric it is, but if I had to say anything about it, the music itself actually has some of the tongue-in-cheek nuttiness of the cover.
Now some of the songs on this album are not only some of the best the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have ever made, they’re some of the best songs I’ve heard all year. These include single “Sacrilege,” a fantastic pop track that slowly unfolds into an all-out bloodbath featuring an epic as hell choir. The title track is even more sinister, and is an absolutely perfect rocker that feels absolutely apocalyptic. The beautiful “Despair” conjures images of emotional highlights like “Maps” from their first album, but still has the punch that makes it an amazing track.
Aside from the bangers in this album, Yeah Yeah Yeahs somehow find some room to mess around and be weird. “Under the Earth” has this cool beat that makes me feel like I’m riding a horse in the wild west or something. But the hook is still there, and it’s catchy as hell. The outer-space rocker “Area 52” is very true to its title and is a straight up fun, weird banger. The follow-up “Buried Alive,” takes things one step further, bringing in the electronic sappiness and making it feel like a post-apocalyptic radio jam, with a rap verse and all. But these moments of weirdness don’t necessarily all work. Their electronic experiment, “These Paths,” introduces a cool idea, but they go nowhere with it. “Always” is a bit heavenly, but the melody leaves a little bit to be desired. The other two softer tracks on this, though, “Subway” and “Wedding Song,” are both absolutely fantastic and see Karen O bringing out her more ghostly side, delivering an absolutely incredible and thought provoking experience with both.
Mosquito is a fantastic album. It’s not without its flaws, and gets a little weak near the middle, but it’s a solid listen. If there’s anything that’s amazing about Yeah Yeah Yeahs, it’s that they have so much personality and originality. That is true more than ever on this album, and it’s making me hope they don’t take another 4 years to put out a new album. B+
>Indie Rock, Punk Rock, Surf Rock, Garage Rock, Grunge
Afraid of Heights is the fourth record by Wavves, the follow up to 2010’s King of the Beach. The latter was just one of those albums that was product of a brilliant recipe, equal parts youthful silliness, self loathing and pop hooks that made for one of the best summer albums of that year. Catchy tracks like “King of the Beach,” “When Will You Come,” “Post Acid” and “Green Eyes” were on repeat for me that year, so I was pretty excited for this record.
Now, here we are, three years later. The record starts off strong with the singles that were released before the album, “Sail to the Sun” and “Demon to Lean On.” What I got from these tracks immediately is that the recipe has changed a little bit. This time around, there’s a more overt grunge influence instead of the pop punk of King of the Beach— More Nirvana, less Green Day. This has some admittedly mixed results, from the more enjoyable “Demon to Lean On” to stuff like the obnoxiously corny title track. Unfortunately, it becomes apparent quite quickly that this album is quite lacking in the songwriting department. The songs on this thing are a mix of mildly catchy tunes to some dreadfully boring melodies.
There are some albums that are mixed bags that have high points that make the listen justifiable. But unfortunately that’s not really the case with Afraid of Heights. Even the more enjoyable tracks can be a bit unrewarding, like the spacy dirge “Everything Is My Fault.” I feel like the good moments can be okay, but the bad moments can be agonizing, like the annoying “Gimme the Knife,” and “Lunge Forward.” The melodies just aren’t interesting, and the lyrics are just corny all the time. At least the moments of self-deprecation in King of the Beach felt like they had some sincerity to them, but this feels more whiny than anything.
Wavves tried to do something different here. I can appreciate that. Unfortunately, this feels like a failed experiment. The production is nice, at least, but again, what fails here is the songwriting. These just aren’t very strong songs as a whole. Of course it’s not totally bad. There’s some moments of light, like the cutesy “Dog,” and the sky high pop hooks of “Beat Me Up” and “That’s On Me” can be catchy. And let’s not forget what is possibly the best track, the awesome opener “Sail to the Sun.” But in the end this just ends up being a perfectly mediocre disappointment for me. As always, check it out for yourself. C