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. AtOn 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… Expand