One of the often overlooked ingredients for an incredible summer is a perfect playlist. Luckily, for those looking to find the right indie sound for the upcoming season, Wallows recently dropped their debut record, Nothing Happens. The first album from the three-piece alt-rock band builds on their highly enjoyable modern rock sound and wraps up a multitude of strong, catchy tracks with a thirty-eight minute run time. However, the band is not content to simply continue the trend of their already impressive discography as this project feels significantly cleaner in terms of production and mixing. This doesn’t feel like an abandonment of their traditional indie style although there are plenty of grunge influences and hard-hitting crescendos to be found in the tracks — each one with a certain level of variety. This contributes to the overall quality of the record, keeping it authentic to the band’s originality and preventing boredom while upping the production value.
A key part of this album’s intensely pleasurable sound is the wide range of guitar riffs and keyboard sections throughout the project. These dynamic instrumentals range from pop-infused synths like in “Are You Bored Yet?” to heavier, more hectic riffs like in “Treacherous Doctor.” Most of the tracks on this record walk the line between solid riffs and harmonious synths – making for catchy songs that hook you in and keep you engaged. Every song has sections that hit the ears just right and invoke a need to dance or sing along. Some tracks like “Sidelines” have generally lighter tones and slower tempos that fit into the category of “easy listening,” but even the songs that hinge more on heavy rock influences have sections where the listener can sit back and enjoy harmonious blend of soft vocals and complimentary riffs. The complicated and technically impressive guitar instrumentals prove that there is more to the band’s technique than simple chord progressions while the thoughtful lyrics demonstrate the personal meaning and value within each track. Take “Scrawny” for example, the guitar work on the verses and the lyrics of the chorus may seem repetitive and simple. However, listening closely reveals the intricacies of the riffs on the chorus as well as the meaning of the lyrics. The song is fundamentally about identity and the attitudes that come with an identity that is static versus dynamic. The repetitive nature of the lyrics in the chorus is symbolic of the way in which the character in the song repeats his actions and stays the same person — a “scrawny motherfucker with a cool hairstyle.” The song isn’t a song just sounds good and that’s it. It has serious value that can only be recognized with thoughtful listening.
Another fundamental aspect of this album that makes it so great is the expert mixing of the hard-hitting instrumentals with the lower, subdued vocals. Instead of combining aggressive guitars and drums with equally intense vocals that could result in an intruding cacophony of sounds, the band chooses to use more intense instrumentals with softer vocals. This results in a blend of sounds that complement each other and allow for both easy listening, and deeper meaning as mentioned previously.
For all those who appreciate great modern and alternative rock, this album is a must listen. It has more than enough technical worth and great rock influence to satisfy the more selective fans of indie rock while remaining accessible enough for most people. Keep this record in mind when assembling your summer playlist.