Album Review: Wavves

Album: Wavvves
Artist: Wavves
Label: Fat Possum Records
Out: February 3rd

I told you I'd get caught up on all of the reviews I didn't have time to get to, eventually. Just didn't think it would take this long. Still, here we are. I'm on vacation this week, so we'll be existing in an abridged format from Monday to Friday. You'll still see our regular features, as well as a minimum of one review per day (!) The only thing missing will be daily news coverage, which we'll forego this week. The only exception, of course, will be if anything happens with this supposed Radiohead Wall of Ice EP. Anyway, onto Wavves--

As most know, Nate Williams, aka Wavves, came out with his second full-length album back in February, entitled Wavvves. Mixing surf rock, lo-fi sensibilities and a hell of a lot of electronic noise, it's sort of caused quite a stir on the indie/alternative music scene. Some hate it, some love it, but chances are, people have at least heard Wavves in order to form a proper opinion. If they hadn't, they surely did so after Williams' now-infamous breakdown earlier this summer. Seems a bit like the fame and success has/had gotten to him a bit. But alas, that's behind him, and us, now, so I won't rehash. The fact of the matter is that Williams has managed to create a fairly unique sound in the ever-so-crowded lo-fi scene, blending blatant surf rock/pop with some seriously dirgy (is that a word?) guitar noise. The result sounds like Sonic Youth covering The Beach Boys. And it works.

As you may have guessed by the "surf" label, Wavvves is filled with a lot of high-energy pop numbers. That being said, for every shredding, speedy number, there's a counter-track which looks to grind everything to a complete halt, drowning any pop hooks you can decipher into a cavern of murky, dark noise (in a good way). Wavves' greatest asset is its fuzz, and the literal sludge it seems to entrench itself in, so to fail to embrace that is to reject it right off the bat. As much as tracks like "So Bored" contain some cutting energy, and a lot bright background vocals, it would be nothing with the ghostly effects, and overt static attempting to shove it into the background. It's flashy, yet dirty-- Smooth, yet jagged. It's an album of opposites, playing itself up as either one end of the spectrum or the other, depending on who's listening and when. Tune in at any one point in the album, and you can fully expect to hear anything ranging from solos, to ambient electronic noise to literally impossible walls of sound. That dynamic and variation is what, to me, sets it apart, and makes it an interesting listen.

As complete of an album Wavvves is, there are, of course, the standouts which cannot be ignored, and scream louder than the others. "Beach Demon" and "Gun In the Sun" probably stick out most on the first half of the record, while the second half, it's a bit harder to choose. Every time I listen, the second portion seems written in the same chaotic, yet breathtaking state of mind. From the raucous "No Hope Kids," all the way through to "Surf Goth," Williams is on the type of roll which usually comprises the stuff of legend. Not to compare him to any of the greats in any genre-- believe me, he's still got a way to go-- but the closing notes he puts on Wavvves speak volumes about where this could possibly be headed in the future. I like to refer to the last six or seven tracks as The Goths. This is mostly due in part to the word goth appearing in the majority of them, but I think it also helps exemplify their similarities and coherence in the greater sense of the album. Each is an explosion of sound unexplored to that point, including spiraling solos and some of the moodiest, darkest environments painted on the record. This deep and introverted foray into Williams' song writing process probably goes a long way to explain what happened earlier this summer, but also gives the collection the exclamation point it was looking for.

Overall, I'd consider myself of the mindset that Wavves is at times, astounding, and a force to be reckoned with in the future. From the first notes, I was enamored by the vicious and ruthless nature of it all, while still being able to pick apart the technicalities in between. Regardless of your opinions as to Williams himself, Wavves is a lot of things, but unoriginal is not one of them. Yes, taking things that have been done before and sort of mixing them together isn't the most organic endeavor for you to undertake, but what hasn't been done before? I'm pretty sure we've exhausted all completely original possibilities, so for this to succeed on this level is something I can appreciate. You've probably all heard it already, but in the off-chance you haven't, you 'll want to check it out. Similarities include No Age, Crystal Antlers and Woods.

Rating: 8.0/10

Best Track: "Gun In the Sun" (courtesy of Stereogum)

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