Review this album
Jun 16, 2013On Afraid of Heights any issue I had with their past work about it being too lo-fi to make anything out is fixed completely, reaching a great production sound that stays clear & crisp enough that everything can be heard, while never being polished to the point that the grit & attitude of the songwriting are overshadowed. The slight reverb on the vocals throughout is also a nice touch. At the same time though the production can differ in some tracks in a way that can really compliment the song, like in the drugged-out & hazy dissonance of “Mystic” or in the dreamy, almost psychedelic atmosphere of “Everything is My Fault”.
Another improvement on this album is in the catchiness department. Every song here has at least one hook that’s just plain infectious, in the best way possible, and expect some to be stuck in your head after the 1st or 2nd listen. In a way this brand of upbeat, catchy, sincere & lyrically miserable garage rock is something occasionally reminiscent of iconic 90’s bands like Nirvana, Pavement or even early Weezer (particularly lead single Demon to Lean On, whose structure reminiscent of tracks like El Scorcho or Pork & Beans). Speaking of lyrics, those have taken a shift to, going from the perspective of carefree slacker surfer dude from their earlier stuff to one of a neurotic pothead with a lot of personal problems to deal with, from low & borderline suicidal self-esteem to shaky relationships to an unwilling lack of ambition. It’s pretty interesting to read through what seems to be singer/guitarist/lyricist/occasional drummer Nathan William’s emotionally unstable personal diary from the year-long period this album took to make that apparently left him & bassist Stephen Pope nearly broke during the recording process. Admittedly if there’s any gripes I have with this it’s that when enough self-deprecating lines are sung, it can get to a point where it feels like a pity party or, with titles like “Everything is My Fault” and “Gimme a Knife” & lines like “none of you will ever understand me”, listening to the whiny ramblings of a mid-00’s emo kid. Still that’s probably my only issue with the album, and even though it affects multiple tracks, it’s nothing bad enough to really ruin any of them or decrease the overall quality all that significantly.
Like in the production, musically Wavves hits a great middle-ground between meticulous & human. It’s aided by Williams’ distinct voice. While some people might be alienated by how nasally & not technically proficient it is, to me it really works well with the crunchy guitars, creating a perfectly meshing sense of snottiness & relatability due to how normal & genuine he comes off. At the same time though the songwriting never feels too sloppy or lazy, with much of the album still feeling professional & planned out, between the driving power chord riffs, tight drum grooves & occasionally eclectic songwriting. Some other notable departures include the breezy acoustic psych-pop of “Dog” or musically similar dark humor of “Cop”, as well as closer “I Can’t Dream” that ends the album on a somber but satisfying note.
Overall I really enjoyed Afraid of Heights. It’s chock full of catchy hooks, sincere lyricism, and a willingness to experiment a little when necessary, which are basically the traits I look for in any good album. I’m gonna be seeing Wavves as part of a big festival thing in September & have high hopes, especially after this.
Top 5 tracks: Demon to Lean On, That’s On Me, Sail to the Sun, Afraid of Heights, Gimme a Knife
Score: 86/100… Collapse
May 19, 2013Afraid Of Heights by Wavves is a more quiet sound, there is less noise and more Grunge if anything. This album has clearly been influenced by Nirvana’s Nevermind. Whilst I’m not too big on my Nirvana, preferring Bleach to their other albums, I like the mix of sounds that Wavves have got on Afraid Of Heights. It’s not an obnoxious album like their other work could be argued as, but its souns sound is cleaner.
“Sail to the Sun” has a very nice clean sound to open the album before getting louder in Grunge fashion. I feel that “Demon to Lean On” could even be a Nirvana song that was just never released. The lyrics feel very downcast with songs like “Paranoid”, “Gimme a Knife” and “I Can’t Dream”, yet it never seems to moan about anything too much, you don’t feel forced anything.
The albums has it Nirvana echoes for sure, but I also get that FIDLAR surf punk sound that they’ve been putting out, as well as some California X vibes in the vocals, just more prominent. I feel “Lunge Forward” is the first track on the album that seems enjoyable to me. It’s not that I didn’t like listening to the first three songs, it’s just that the album seems to get it’s feet at this point, it doesn’t seem so weighed down.
I feel that with this Wavves album, it just can’t escape that Nirvana song, I mean just listen to “Dog”, I’m definitely hearing “Polly” in this song, and because there is always that Nirvana ghost in the background, the album suffers from it. I can get that they were an influence and the tracks are going to show that, I just feel that they show it too much at points.
This album’s ghost qualities are reflected in the sound of “Everything is my Fault”, it’s a very stripped down vocal heavy song that with reverb has that ghostly sound to it, and even though it features yet another acoustic guitar, with the inclusion of a beacon sound in the background it is the album’s stand-out track because dynamically it is so different.
Overall the album doesn’t do anything special, nor new and you don’t exactly have a roaring time listening to it because it feels so depressing, but I think that works to it’s advantage. The sleepy final track “I Can’t Dream” feels like an album closer, and as a whole the album reflects the lyrical themes; it’s a bit of a mess. But if you’re a Nirvana fan you may get more out of it than most.… Expand